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Firefighters battle blaze in strip mall

(KKTV)
Published: Jun. 5, 2018 at 5:39 AM MDT
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Firefighters worked fast to keep a fire from spreading across an entire strip mall Tuesday morning.

The Colorado Springs Fire Department says a caller reported smelling smoke just before 1 a.m. and then seeing a smoke plume rising from a shopping center off of North Academy just north of Vickers Drive. CSFD Lt. Fred Varnell said it took responding firefighters some time to narrow down which stores were affected.

"After their arrival, it took awhile to gain entry and figure out exactly what they had and who was all involved, so it took them a good 15-20 minutes to make access.”

Once firefighters determined the blaze was only inside bookstore Why Not Books, they worked fast to make sure it stayed that way. Varnell told 11 News there was a very real risk the fire could have spread beyond the bookstore. The bookstore is located near the center of the shopping strip.

"In strip malls, the danger's going to be when the fire can get up in the ceiling ... if there’s any breaches in the firewalls in between the two occupancies, the fire can spread really quickly," Varnell said. "We have the billards store right next to [Why Not Books] a couple of stores down. It's a big occupancy, a big square footage retail-type store. If we had fire that spread up there we’d have a big issue.”

A second alarm was called -- meaning extra firefighters and resources were called to the scene -- in case the fire did spread, but crews were able to keep the fire contained to the bookstore.

Investigators are now trying to determine a cause. No one was in the store when the fire started.