Fire Destroys Oklahoma Mall, Blaze May Have Started In Pizza Restaurant

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MOORE, Okla. (AP) -- Fire investigators on Monday combed the rubble for clues to what started a fire that caused $2 million to $3 million in damage to a shopping center here.

The blaze began Sunday night in a pizza restaurant in the Malibu Shopping Center, Deputy Chief Gary Bird of the Moore Fire Department.

``We don't know the exact origin inside the structure, but it did start in this occupancy,'' Bird said.

A firefighter suffered smoke inhalation in the fire but was treated at the scene, Bird said. There were no other injuries.

Two people who saw flames in the west wing of the 11,000 square-foot building and called 911 around 7:38 p.m. Nearly 75 firefighters from Moore and Norman battled the blaze, Bird said.

The shopping center, which also included an office furniture store and a convenience store, was built around 1972, Bird said.

``It met all the current fire codes at the time, but all the building and fire codes are so much more stringent,'' Bird said. ``It had a common attic and didn't have all the fire breaks.''

Buildings are checked annually and the city surveys buildings when new tenants move in, he said.

All of the businesses in the center were closed Monday, Bird said.

Discount Audio owner Don Nowlin said his inventory of electronics was ruined.

``The smoke and moisture got into everything,'' Nowlin said. ``Since it's all electronics, everything is toast.''

Nowlin has operated his store in the Malibu Shopping Center for 14 years. He said he is unsure if the store will be relocated.

Smoke and heat from the fire forced several residents of a nearby apartment complex to evacuate.

Janine Kousari lives in an apartment complex behind the shopping center. She said heat from the blaze cracked windows in apartment units closest to the pizza place.

``It was like a tornado of fire,'' Kousari said. ``We were all afraid it was going to catch the apartments on fire.''