Firefighters investigating gas leak at Northway Mall discover small roof collapse

Firefighters investigating a gas leak at Northway Mall in Anchorage on Wednesday morning discovered a small section of the roof was beginning to collapse, officials said.

Planet Fitness and Shockwave Trampoline Park, the only two businesses that remain open in the former shopping center, were evacuated when firefighters responded around 10:30 a.m., Assistant Fire Chief Alex Boyd said.

Anchorage Fire Department crews began inspecting hidden spaces where gas lines run when they discovered damaged wooden trusses, he said. A small section of the roof was sagging several feet but had not fallen to the ground, said Ross Noffsinger, acting building official for the municipality.

“It kind of looks like a little crater on the roof,” Boyd said Thursday.

A number of commercial buildings in Anchorage have buckled under the weight of heavy snow and ice in recent weeks. Municipal officials have warned owners of similar buildings — largely those built with wood trusses during the 1970s and 1980s — to clear snow off roofs.

The collapse was not easily visible from inside the building because the wooden trusses are hidden by the suspended ceiling, Boyd said.

Engineers were on site Wednesday.


The east side of the building, which houses the trampoline park, has steel trusses and did not have any damage, Boyd said. That business was deemed safe and reopened Wednesday.

The roof was sagging over the Planet Fitness section of the mall, Noffsinger said. That area will not be safe until the snow is removed and columns or beams are added to brace and support the roof, he said Thursday.

“Right now it’s considered unsafe — we don’t want anyone underneath it, we don’t want anyone on top of it because it could catastrophically collapse at any moment right now,” Noffsinger said.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the partial roof collapse caused the gas leak, Boyd said. The leak wasn’t in the same location as the collapse, but Boyd said pipes may have been pulled or shifted because of the collapse.

Boyd said it appears the partial collapse may have occurred sometime during the last few weeks and went unnoticed until the gas odor was reported.

At least four buildings in Anchorage have seen significant portions of their roofs collapse during the past month. One person died and two were trapped when the roof of a CrossFit gym gave way in February.

Another building near the gym had a close call during the last few weeks, Noffsinger said, but the owners were able to remove snow when they noticed the roof sagging and make necessary repairs. The wooden trusses had rotted because of a water leak, he said.

The Anchorage School District closed libraries at five elementary schools over concerns about heavy snow loads, and part of the Palmer Library roof caved in during February.

Officials have said this year’s snow is not too heavy for the majority of Anchorage homes, but there is concern about older flat-roofed commercial buildings — especially those with wooden trusses.

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter focusing on breaking news and public safety. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota. Contact her at