Arson is suspected in a fire at the Fallas department store in Santa Maria Tuesday night that forced employees to flee and activated the store’s sprinkler system causing major damage to inventory. The fire started just after 10:00 p.m. with Santa Maria firefighters arriving within minutes to find smoke billowing out of the roof of the building in the Town Center West shopping center. Employees were working in the store at the time of the fire and managed to evacuate the building without injury. Investigators believe the fire started on the second floor of the two-story building and by the time firefighters made it there, the building’s fire sprinkler system had activated.
“Fire sprinklers did keep the fire in check which allowed our crews to fully extinguish it”, said Santa Maria Fire Dept. Battalion Chief Mike Farmer, “we went into salvage and overhaul operations
after that to remove the smoke and lessen the water damage as much as we could.”
Water from the fire sprinklers damaged clothing, household goods and other items in the store which is expected to remain closed on Wednesday for the cleanup.
Investigators from the Santa Maria Fire Dept. and the Santa Maria Police Dept. are investigating the suspected arson fire.