Firefighter says The White Lakes Mall took ten hours to put out

Three individuals arrested for White Lakes Mall
Published: Dec. 31, 2020 at 6:40 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -The damage on the White Lakes Mall had the Topeka Fire Department and rescue team on standby for hours.

Thursday 13 News spoke with Public Education Officer, Alan Stahl, on the critical damage done by the fire on Tuesday.

“I’ve been doing this for over 20 years in the city and we have had a lot of fires but this one really stands out because of the building itself,” said Stahl.

He says the nature of the building made it difficult to put out based on the structure of the building and its condition.

“This building was built in the 1960s so there were a lot of tight spaces and trapped areas where it was hard to get to where the fire was at,” he explained.

Flames spread through about one-third of the building before the fire was out. From the air, you can see where part of the roof collapsed.

Stahl says a structural assessment helped investigators determine the fire was intentionally set.

Late Wednesday -- authorities arrested 18-year-old Joel Sink and two juveniles on charges of arson and criminal trespass.

Stahl says a tip to crime stoppers led to the suspects.

“Those tips from the community to Crimestoppers are just golden information to us,” Stahl said.

While the damage is severe, Stahl is thankful no one was injured.

“This building makes it difficult to fight fires safely. We’ve been concerned about fires in this building a long time,” he said.

The Shawnee County jail says Sink was released this afternoon on a $10,000 bond.

Investigators have not released how the fire was started.

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