Officials say cause of Tanger Outlets fire “undetermined”

EAST LAMPETER TOWNSHIP, Lancaster County, Pa. --- It was a sight seen for miles Monday afternoon.

Black smoke rising above heavy flames coming from the sinkhole at the Tanger Outlets.

Officials and witnesses said the fire started around 4:20 p.m.

Lafayette Fire Company Chief David Keens said construction crews were working on reinstalling a draining system at the sinkhole site.

He said they were stacking a type of crates and sealing the structures with a plastic-like tarp.

He added they use hot tools for their work.

"At some point, one of the workers noticed smoke and approximately 30 seconds later, it erupted into a fire. He said within another 30 seconds, it was more than a fire extinguisher could handle,” said Chief Keens.

The official cause of the fire is "undetermined," at this time.

Keens said about twelve to 15 workers were on the scene and everyone is safe.

Some of the damage left behind the fire includes damage at the sinkhole construction site, several store front signs are melted, smoke damage, and broken windows.

Daphne Buzard was working inside the Columbia Sportswear Company store when the fire started.

“The sinkhole happened and now this? So I think it’s pretty crazy,” said Buzard.

She said they first became aware of the flames when customers started yelling "fire!"

She said about 20 people were inside as the fire burned.

“We did what we thought was best to make sure everyone was safe and out of the building so if the building caught on fire that we would be safe. We made sure everyone got out and then we went out the back door,” said Buzard.

Jim Rogers said he was taking a customer to the front door of the Haggar Clothing Company when he saw the flames.

“Guys come running out of the hole so I called it in to 9-1-1 right away. Within a couple of minutes, the flames were just flowing right down through the sinkhole to the area that they’ve been working on," said Rogers.

Keens said the investigation is now with Tanger Outlets property owners and the construction team, which will have to follow up regarding the building process.

He said work is expected to continue of over the course of, at least, the next day.

Utilities around the building nearest the sinkhole have been shut off.

In May, Tanger Outlet officials said the expected sinkhole construction to be completed in July.

An official with Tanger Outlets said they will issue a statement on Tuesday.

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