Took Mel and Oliver to Fountaingate to pick up her machine and we planned to look at a couple other shops first.
When we arrived we could see black smoke coming from other side of shopping centre but couldn’t tell where it was exactly. We heard the fire engines too but they weren’t in view. There were no fire alarms going and no-one being evacuated from the shopping centre so we decided it must have been something on the other side of the shopping centre out of view from us.
We went downstairs and wandered around Harris Scarfe and when we came back made our way to the travelator to go up with the pram to go to the sewing machine shop only to be told by the police we couldn’t and we had to get out the building because of a fire – one pointed a general direction and then they disappeared. We had a pram. How/where were we supposed to go? We didn’t know the shopping centre well and couldn’t take the pram up the escalator with the crowds that were there. We didn’t know if the lifts were working and couldn’t go up stairs. We stood around with some other shoppers in a similar predicament when a staff member of a shop came along and said we had to go, we were being evacuated. I said to him: we have a pram – where are we supposed to go? So he and some other staff led us all out of the building and then we found we were on the lower level car park and only stairs to get up to the top where the car was. hmmm.
I asked the same guy, ok, how do we get to our car. He pointed us towards another carpark and said there was a ramp inside the carpark and we needed to go up that. The only ramp we could find led us back into the shopping centre again but the other side.
So Mel and I went up there looking for signs of evacuation – still no alarms. A lady we talked to said she’d just come out of the pub where the alarm was going but the manager had told them all it was a false alarm. She decided to leave anyway.
Finally we get to the sewing shop, Mel gets her sewing machine which was fortunately already packaged up, I’m still watching for the police and signs of evacuation – nothing. We get back to the car and then in a long line up to get out onto the road as the police was blocking the roundabout and stopping people from coming into the centre and they were all being channelled back out onto the main road too.
I later heard on the 3pm news that a roof airconditioner had caught fire, they’d had to evacuate the centre and they’d used air support to put the fire out which took about half an hour. The news report also said there was minor damage but considerable mopping up to be done because the sprinkler system had come on – fortunately that was after we left.
Thought it was pretty disorganised really. No-one seemed to know what was going on and even on the side where the evacuation was happening there were staff in several shops who had no idea and people just sitting around talking – Mel and I told some people on our way out.