Jan. 22 (UPI) — Federal authorities clarified Monday that what were first reported as homemade bombs that went off at a Florida mall were actually signal flares.
The two incendiary devices were activated inside the Eagle Ridge Mall in central Florida on Sunday evening, which triggered a fire alarm.
“It appears two items, believed to be marine flares, were ignited in a mall hallway, creating a large amount of smoke, and a backpack was located at the scene,” the FBI said in a statement. “Bomb technicians examined the contents of the backpack and determined it did not contain any incendiary or explosive devices.”
The mall also acknowledged the flares in a statement Monday afternoon.
Authorities responded to an alarm call at the mall in Lake Wales, Fla., Sunday evening as smoke billowed from an area of the complex.
The devices and a backpack were found in a corridor of the mall, Deputy Chief Troy Schulze, a spokesperson for the City of Lake Wales, said earlier. They were composed of flares inside of a PVC pipe and were stashed close to a loading dock — but away from the roughly 100 people who were inside the mall at the time.
“Initial reports of pipe bombs, IEDs, explosions or detonations of any kind at Eagle Ridge Mall were incorrect, as were reports that any additional dangerous materials were found during a thorough law enforcement search of mall property,” mall officials said.
The mall was evacuated and no one was injured, officials said, although the building received some structural damage.
“I’m grateful for Florida’s first responders and law enforcement who are working to keep everyone safe in Lake Wales tonight,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said on Twitter.
Officials said earlier Monday they were looking for a man who might have placed the flares inside the shopping center.