301.519.9237 exdirector@nesaus.org

12.28.22 – RDnewsnow 

Nearly 30 fire personnel responded to a store fire in south Red Deer on Christmas Day.

Assistant Deputy Chief for Red Deer Emergency Services Matt White said the department received an alarm call from a monitoring company about a fire at Southpointe Plaza (5001 19 St.) around 10:52 a.m. Sunday morning.

After receiving multiple calls from passersby noting smoke coming from the roof of the building, White said the fire response was upgraded to a structure fire. One of those passersby, Red Deer County resident Richard Gravells, said what initially looked like a small puff of white smoke from a heating system turned into black smoke roughly 15 minutes later.

Nearly 30 fire personnel were on scene at a store fire in Southpointe Plaza on Christmas Day. (Richard Gravells)

White said during this time, fire department resources were being tied up responding to two other alarm calls, later deemed false alarms. As a result, he says they utilized their partnership with Red Deer County fire services.

He shared that three city fire engines with 12 firefighters, one ladder, one platoon chief, one deputy chief, an ambulance with two staff and one Red Deer County fire engine with six members were all on scene, adding to roughly 27 fire personnel.

The fire, he said, originated from the back storage room of the Bell store, located in the centre of the five-store strip mall. While the cause is still unknown, he says there was only minor smoke and water damage to the connecting stores.

As the store was closed with no employees or customers inside, White says a major challenge was attempting to gain access inside the building through the security system which included a steel fence behind the glass storefront. He says they had to force entry using power tools.

“The access was a bit challenging just because of the security features that were in place to prevent theft and unauthorized access, I would say, to the Bell store, so it took some time to get past those security features to allow our crews to enter and extinguish the blaze,” he said.

White says as the building was fully secured, he does not believe the fire to be suspicious in nature. However, he confirmed “significant damage” was caused to the inside of the store “requiring significant remediation to repair”, with dollar amounts not determined yet.

White says crews were on scene for almost four hours and no injuries were reported.