Our View: More lessons to learn from Galleria fire

Our View
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Nearly two months after a 23-year-old transient allegedly set a fire that caused $55 million in damages to the Galleria mall in Roseville, officials finally released a report that discusses what happened that day. The report reveals who officials say shut off the sprinkler system, discusses the constant changing conditions first responders faced, and sums up what the city learned while offering itself praise for handling one of the “most complex fire and police responses” in Roseville’s history. The report, however, leaves some holes and questions unanswered. And if the city has learned anything, hopefully Judge Larry Gaddis’ denial of a gag order requested to try to halt the report’s release will encourage them to be more open about the investigation going forward. There is also the bigger question of how will mall and city officials make sure the Galleria is better protected from any future possible attacks? Earlier this month the city said it had a report ready to release to the public. However, the Placer County District Attorney’s Office stepped in just before the report’s expected release and said it had filed a motion for a gag order that would keep the public from reading the document. The reasoning was to ensure a fair trail. But even defendant Alexander Piggee’s defense attorney criticized that rationale and publicly opposed the gag order. Gaddis rightfully denied the request Wednesday and the report was released and discussed at a Friday morning press conference with Roseville fire and city officials present. Hopefully the city will take Gaddis’ denial seriously and realize that it is a misguided effort to try to withhold critical information from the public. The 16-page document reveals that a mall maintenance worker shut off the sprinkler system about 15 minutes after it turned itself on. The sprinklers remained off for 71 minutes until fire officials overheard the man talking about it, according to the report. The worker claimed he was told by a police officer or sheriff’s deputy to turn off the water. There was also repeated mention of a UPS worker who apparently heard the same order from an officer and relayed the order to the maintenance worker. The account varies slightly in the document. The report does not name either worker, nor does it explain why. It also states that no officer gave such an order and deputies were not on scene at that time. During Friday’s press conference, officials said they would not name witnesses because of the ongoing investigation. Officials need to explain more about the two people and release their names. Their interviews with police and fire need to be released as well. Moving forward, what the Galleria blaze has demonstrated is the need for more security at the mall. A recent Gold Country Media article quoted security guards who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing their jobs. They said about 90 new security hires had been added to the mall’s roster. But how effective will a man or woman with no real emergency situation training be if another dramatic situation should arise at the popular shopping complex? Arden Fair Mall’s head of security Steven Reed is open with the public about the Sacramento shopping center’s security measures. He added that he hires off-duty Sacramento law enforcement officers to help keep the peace. Can the Galleria take a page from Reed’s playbook and look to recruit some of Roseville’s and the Sheriff’s Office finest? There was also reportedly talk at one point between Galleria officials and Roseville law enforcement about possibly setting up a small, on-site office for the city’s police force. That idea didn’t gain much traction then, but maybe now the city and mall leaders can form a partnership that will benefit them and the people who frequent the mall. It seems there is more city and law enforcement officials can take away from the economically devastating blaze than just setting up better command posts and making sure the right equipment is on scene, as suggested at the end of the report. It’s time to beef up security with people who know what they are doing and be completely transparent with the investigation moving forward.