Cause of Ala Moana Center food court fire remains under investigation

Local News

Damages from a fire at Ala Moana Center’s Makai Market Food Court tallied $700,000 to the structure and $20,000 to its contents, according to the Honolulu Fire Department.

Three food vendors sustained the most damage: Sbarro, Lahaina Chicken Company and Senor Pepe.

Firefighters were called to the center at around 2:38 p.m. Friday when fire sparked in the Makai Market Food Court, generating smoke that could be seen from nearby buildings.

“The whole entire food court was smoking,” said Tyler Liana, who was working at Cinnabon at the time. “I just saw a lot of smoke covering the main part of the food court and then security was telling everybody to leave and everybody was rushing out.”

“We could see really dark smoke coming through so we walked over to the corner and it looked like it was coming through the stacks,” said Phil Burns, a visitor from Australia.

The entire food court was evacuated, but the center said no one was hurt. Stores located above the food court on Mall Levels 2 and 3 were also evacuated to ensure the safety of customers and employees.

“I had to tell the customers to evacuate as soon as possible to get them out of the store and keep them safe,” said Kainoa Kohut, a sales associate at Zumiez.

“It was kind of scary, this is my first time dealing with something like this,” said Jillian Aquino, who worked nearby. “I saw smoke in the middle of the food court so I figured okay, it looks serious. So I told my co-workers maybe we should leave to get your stuff and we will lock up.”

Stores and vendors were able to reopen that evening.

Investigators are still searching for the cause of the fire. “Since the sprinkler is going off, it does indicate that there has been some kind of fire at least within… the ventilation system itself,” said Capt. David Jenkins with the Honolulu Fire Department.

Fire officials said while the department regularly inspects the fire extinguishing system in the food court, it does not inspect grease traps, and businesses are responsible for maintaining their own vents and ducts.

Officials could not confirm when the restaurants were last inspected.

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