By: Zachary Lopez (ZachNews)
Source: San Bernardino County Fire District Battalion Chief and Public Information Officer Mike McClintock (Information)
Pictures: San Bernardino County Fire District and KABC 7 (Courtesy)
Downtown San Bernardino, California: A commercial structure fire occurred inside the closed, vacant and abandoned Carousel Mall at around 6:48 p.m. PT on Sunday, May 15th, 2022.
According to the San Bernardino County Fire District, crews were dispatched to a reported commercial fire at the Carousel Mall, San Bernardino after receiving 911 callers stated smoke from the vacant mall.
Fire crews quickly arrived on-scene to find light to medium smoke showing from the Eastern portion of the Carousel Mall.
Arriving firefighters worked on forcible entry finding heavy smoke conditions in the large multi-story mall, and due to the amount of smoke and building complexity, a second alarm response was quickly requested.
Interior crews found heavy smoke conditions inside, complicating efforts to easily find the fire inside the Carousel Mall.
Firefighters utilized thermal imaging cameras and vertical ventilation to try and lift the heavy smoke, but the fire continued to build and a third alarm was requested.
Interior and crews ultimately found the fire on the second floor of the Carousel Mall, and fire crews deployed more than 600 feet of hose lines from the engine to the seat of the fire.
Despite these challenges the fire was brought under control with 90 minutes of arrival, and all searches of the mall came up negative.
The fire at the Carousel Mall left behind yet more burnt damage adding yet more scars to an old mall that once had people searching for the perfect gifts before Christmas, enjoying the tasty foods at the food court and kids laughing as they ride around the carousel.
Originally opened on Wednesday, October 11th, 1972 as the Central City Mall, the two stories mall had 52 stores and 3 major anchor stores which were J.C. Penney, Montgomery Ward, and The Harris Company which has been at that location since 1927.
The idea of the mall was for an urban renewal project for Downtown San Bernardino, but during the late 1970’s, the mall started to encounter problems, including local gangs that used the mall as a gathering place and a lack of organization from the mall changing hands with different management companies as well as city leaders who had a financial interest in the success of the mall.
In the late 1980’s, the developers made a new revitalization plan to renovate the mall to attract more people.
In 1991, the mall was renamed “Carousel Mall” and added a large carousel, colorful interior decoration, and brighter façades to attract families with young children, and alienate gang members.
Despite the renovation the mall started losing business throughout the rest of the 1990’s on top of the downtown area fell into a declining trend as more people decided to shop at other malls and shopping outlets in the Inland Empire.
In 2001, Montgomery Ward closed after going out of business leaving behind J.C. Penney until they closed in late 2003, the last and final anchor store for the Carousel Mall.
In response to the anchor closures, the owners of the Carousel Mall at that time allowed a mixed-use concept to fill vacated retail outlets at its 3rd Street entrance and its western court/lobby with county offices for the County of San Bernardino which remained the largest tenant of the mall until they decided to move out of the mall.
In 2006, LNR Property Corp purchased the property with the intention of developing a high density residential and commercial project, but nothing came of it.
Sadly on Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017, the Carousel Mall closed their doors and the remaining tenants that were still open were evicted from the mall.
In May 2018, the carousel at the Carousel Mall was put for auction along with other items from the mall, which the proceeds from the auction going toward redeveloping the area.
The pictures from KABC 7 of the Carousel Mall in May 2018 all closed but intact, untouched and in clean condition would years later become dusty, dark and sadly later damaged and left abandoned.
Since the closure, the Carousel Mall has sat closed and vacant with wooden boards and barriers put around the entrances to the mall, but as years went by the mall sat in a state of abandonment as people began break through those wooden barriers to get inside the mall and even post video of what they did inside the mall onto video sharing sites like YouTube; from people who explorer abandoned buildings, to homeless people living inside the mall, and even people smashing windows and tagging up the property with graffiti.
According to the San Bernardino Police Department say that they get approximately three calls a week for various problems inside the mall, including deal with the transients at the mall.
Reports of mold found inside the mall, portions of the ceiling falling apart, broken glass and nails found throughout the building and burnt debris piled up from past fires.
Many local businesses near by the mall and concern about people getting into the mall and are worried about the fires that have been occurring at the mall.
According to the City of San Bernardino Public Information Officer Jeff Kraus, in recent months, firefighters have been at the mall responding to 2 to 3 small fires a week.
This latest fire to occur at the closed, vacant and abandoned Carousel Mall had no reports of injuries to either firefighters or the public, and the cause of the fire remains under investigation by San Bernardino County Fire District Investigators.
The San Bernardino Police Department want to the public to stay out of the mall as the conditions inside are unhealthy and dangerous.
The City of San Bernardino has entered into an exclusive negotiating agreement with a firm back in August 2021 and are working out the details on a development agreement.
The hope by the City of San Bernardino is to use the property for apartments, townhomes, retail and offices, but that could take years.
Local businesses as well as residents want something done eventually to the Carousel Mall, but until then they want increased in security or if can’t be remodeled, demolition the mall as soon as possible; not continue to have the mall sit there for several more years in the current condition as a place of interest for people to explore, camp inside, vandalize or set fire to.
If anybody has information regarding the fire at the Carousel Mall, please contact the San Bernardino County Fire District’s Investigation Unit is located at the Office of the Fire Marshal at: 1 (909) 347-1771 or go to: https://sbcfire.org/fireinvestigation/
For anonymous crime reporting, you can contact We-Tip at: 1 (800) 472-7766 or 1 (800) 782-7463, or visiting the We Tip website at: https://www.wetip.com/
Thanks to all of the firefighters, emergency personnel and law enforcement who responded to the fire at the Carousel Mall.