Unattended wok sparks blaze, causes evacuation at Ala Moana food court

Photo Courtesy: Phil Suh
Photo Courtesy: Phil Suh
Amelia Chatwell
Amelia Chatwell
Kazu Saito
Kazu Saito
Terry Seelig
Terry Seelig

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An unattended wok containing oil sparked a blaze that forced the evacuation of the usually-busy food court at Ala Moana Center Thursday.

Flames and thick, black smoke shot out the exhaust port of an air duct at Ala Moana Center. The fire actually started a couple of stories below in the popular Makai Market food court, which was quickly evacuated.

"People just coming out holding their trays of food and drinks," Amelia Chatwell, witness, said. "Not running, but in a hurry to get out."

The grease fire began in the kitchen of Panda Express shortly after 10 AM.

A female worker reportedly suffered minor burn injuries and declined treatment. The Chinese restaurant's area manager says his main concern was the safety of his employees.

"How many people were working? How many were in there?" this reporter asked.

"That time I think only around two, two people in the kitchen only," Aaron Wu, Panda Express area manager, said. "Everybody is ok."

Other eateries going through food preparations for the anticipated lunch rush were forced to stop what they were doing -- and wait.

"Come in the security people, just like kick out, shut down the electricity and the fire," Kazu Saito, Naniwa-Ya manager, said.

"Usually lunch time is busy?" this reporter asked.

"Yeah, very busy," Saito said. "Lunch time is the main, we make money."

Some retail shops nearby -- including Hilo Hattie and Go Calendars, Games and Toys -- were shut down, as firefighters moved in with power saws and axes to expose areas within the exhaust system that were continuing to smolder.

"The heat from the fire went above the hood of the kitchen's cooking area and has caused some of the surfaces that probably are coated with grease to continue to smolder," Capt. Terry Seelig, Honolulu Fire Department, said.

Late this afternoon Ala Moana released this statement.

The Makai Market Food Court reopened today at 3:30 p.m. after a temporary closure due to the fire earlier today at Panda Express. All Makai Market Food Court merchants are open for business except for the following:

  • Hibachi
  • Yummy Korean BBQ
  • Soba-ya
  • Panda Express
  • Sbarro

Additional stores adjacent to or above the food court are still temporarily closed due to impact from this morning's fire:

Street Level Merchants

  • Cinnabon
  • Curry House CoCo Ichibanya
  • Sam Goody
  • See's Candies
  • Taco del Mar

Mall Level 2 Merchants

  • Papyrus
  • Reyn's
  • Juicy Couture
  • Kate Spade
  • Hermes
  • Disney Store
  • Bag ‘n Baggage

Mall Level 3 Merchants

  • American Eagle
  • Aéropostale

Please call 808-955-9517 for updates on store status.

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