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Staff at Puyallup mall saves Christmas after fire

The staff at South Hill Mall stepped in to save Christmas after a fire destroyed its decorations. (Photo: KOMO News)

PUYALLUP, Wash. -- The staff at Puyallup’s South Hill Mall scrambled to create a Christmas display after a fire destroyed their holiday decorations.

In late August, the fire ripped through the mall’s storage unit, torching almost $250,000 worth of holiday decorations, including everything they use at Christmas time.

“It was sort of like, OK, let’s hit the ground running and let’s figure out what we need to do,” mall marketing director Patty Summers said. “Because we don’t have a lot of time.”

Summers said most commercial decorations are delivered around that time of the year, so they had to move quickly to find what they needed.

Summers led an emergency meeting with the mall’s property manager, fittingly named Wendy Noel.

They immediately went into planning mode and began ordering new trees and decorations.

Over the next three months, the management team and mall staff became shoppers and decorators. They assembled three massive trees, which each required about three 12-hour days from 10 different people.

The management team also went to retail stores hunting for ornaments and decorations.

They reassembled Santa’s set. His chair was all that survived the fire. And they spruced up their new ornaments and tied hundreds of bows.

Summers estimates the whole process cost mall staff around 500 to 600 hours of labor, some of them volunteer hours from Patty and her team. But she says it was worth it.

“There’s not a time I walk by it that I don’t pause and take a nice long look at it, because I’m super pleased with how it turned out and it was definitely worth the hours spent on it,” she said.

They only put up about half as many decorations as usual. They lost several banners and trees in the fire. They hope to restore most of the collection by next year.

Summers says the cause of the fire is still unknown, and the mall is still in the insurance claim process, hoping their loss will be covered.

(This story was first reported in the Tacoma News Tribune.)

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