OCTOBER 18, 2005 -- A make-believe fire and hostage situation played out at Westfield Independence Mall in Wilmington Tuesday.
Shoppers were evacuated as firefighters extinguished the smoke. Meanwhile the kidnapper, an actor named Rick Forrester, took his hostage, his real-life wife, to the parking lot. That's where negotiations began.
Forrester released his "hostage" and surrendered.
The scenario may be fake, but the response by firefighters, police officers and emergency workers is real and valuable for training.
"It's like a football team. You must practice before the big game. This gives our people real life exposure," says Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous.
The Wilmington Fire Department requires the mall to hold two disaster drills a year. Last spring they had one after the mall was closed. This time it was during business hours with shoppers inside.
Actor Rick Forrester ended the drill on the ground, getting a once over by a police dog. His next trip to the mall with his wife will likely be less exciting.