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Tuesday, June 25 2019 @ 05:51 AM UTC

Electrical Fire Knocks Out Power to MultiPlaza Mall in Punta Pacifica

Safety & Security By DON WINNER for - An electrical fire in a high-voltage electrical panel knocked out power to the MultiPlaza Mall in Punta Pacifica at just before 11:00 am this morning. I was heading into the mall with my family when I heard an excited private mall security guard reporting he had discovered smoke near an elevator in the parking garage behind the hotel. My family went ahead and I stayed behind to see what was going on. Mall employees quickly arrived and opened the door to a mechanical access stairway leading down behind an elevator. They brought up several fire extinguishers and were trying to decide if they should go down into the smokey stairwell and make an effort to put out the fire themselves or call the fire department when all hell broke loose. With the door to the stairway now open the fire was fed with a fresh supply of oxygen and it surged. The high-voltage lines going into the boxes failed and started to short and explode. The mall workers dropped the fire extinguishers and ran for the hills at the sound of dozens of very loud explosions, and the smoke got much heavier and thicker. I took cover behind a column and dialed 103 to call it in. (more)

First Report: The fire dispatcher answered on the first ring and I told him I was calling to confirm that they should already have a call for a fire at the Multiplaza Mall shopping center. The fire department had not yet been notified and didn't know what I was talking about. I gave him the details on the location and fire type and they rolled on the call. Mall security personnel evacuated shoppers from the area and the entire parking garage filled with that thick nasty black electrical smoke.

Thick black smoke fills the parking garage in the Multiplaza shopping center in Punta Pacifica, Panama City, on Saturday morning 28 April 2007. An electrical short in a high voltage feed for the mall caused the smokey fire and knocked out power for hours.

First Response: Security and maintenance personnel from the Multiplaza mall in Panama City, Panama respond to reports of a smokey electrical fire, and then quickly retreat when dozens of loud explosions rocked the area.

Fire Department Arrives: They make an assessment, call for backup, and decide not to go in until they are sure the power has been turned off. They checked with the engineers at the mall, and then wait for the power company.

Safe To Go In: The workers from the electrical company came and killed power to the mall from the street, and ensured the fire department that the electrical panel was no longer charged. The firemen then went in and knocked it down using dry chemical extinguishers, just to be on the safe side.

Hot Work: Panama is a hot and muggy place if you're wearing shorts and a white hat. Firemen wearing protective equipment and breathing apparatus quickly overheat and can only work for a limited amount of time before they have to come out and peel down, just to cool off and rehydrate.

He's Everywhere: The Director of Panama's National Civil Protection System, Dr. Roberto Vasquez, appears at the scene of everything bad that happens. He's usually one of the first responders, no matter what's going on. When 100 houses burned in Curundu a couple of weeks ago, I saw television footage of residents running to save whatever personal belongings they could before the flames devoured their homes, and right there in the thick of things was Dr. Velasquez, directing traffic and coordinating the emergency response. If there's a flood, he's up to his knees in water. It's nice to see a guy who leads from the front.

No Injuries, Minor Damage: In the end this fire was really no big deal. No one got hurt and the damage was minor and isolated to the electrical panel (which was trashed.) High voltage electrical fires with highly charged short circuits and explosions in a busy mall get people excited quickly. I noticed that they are putting the finishing touches on an expansion to the mall, and it seems like they are almost ready to open part of it to traffic. I would not be all too surprised to learn that they picked this morning to test the new air conditioners or something similar, and they found out the hard way that they forgot to account for the new load on the old curcuits. Whoops... Whatever. Live and learn.

Copyright 2007, text and photos by Don Winner for As usual, feel free to use whatever you want as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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