"We're not ignoring that. The date is significant in Colorado history, but it is it not something we are dismissing," said Joly.
About 25 Jefferson County Schools in the Chatfield, Dakota Ridge and Columbine area were on lockout for about 30 minutes as a precaution when the first device was discovered.
An e-mail sent to parents from Jeffco Public Schools said, "Your child's school was on lockout for a short time because of a suspicious device that was located in the area of a fire at Southwest Plaza Mall this afternoon. The lockout was simply a precaution. A lockout means that all access into schools was restricted. However, schools will be dismissing as usual."
The lockout was implemented around 1:30 p.m. and lifted at 2 p.m.
There were no classes at Columbine High School today.
First Device Found
Larry Juceum, a manager of a toy store in the mall, told 7NEWS that the canisters were camping canisters, and they had been next to the electrical panel. They did not explode.
Juceum said the hallway quickly filled with smoke but the fire alarm never went off because the alarm system was offline, undergoing testing at the time.
Mall Evacuated; 6-10,000 People Inside At Time
The entire mall was evacuated when the fire started and did not reopen Wednesday. It is unclear if the mall will open as scheduled on Thursday.
""Where hoping that things will return to normal (Thursday)," Kelley said.
About 300 employees from various stores as well as all of the customers were forced out into the parking lot, Kelley said. She estimated that there were between 6,000 and 10,000 people in the mall during lunchtime, which is typically one of the busiest times of the day.
A shopper, Mindy Hanson, described her experience in comments on this story:
I was there when it happened. It was very odd how it all came about. Shopping in one of the department stores and all of a sudden a mall security guard came in and said to the employee, "Please have the customers leave the building." The employee looked around, got on the escalator and left the area without saying a word. The PA system was making announcements about random upcoming sales but not a word about evacuating. We kept shopping assuming it was nothing and it was only 10 minutes or so later we wandered out and saw stores closing and locking up when we realized it was real. If this was a real threat they did NOT handle it well!"
Ciera Ortiz identified herself as a worker at the mall and described what happened to her.
"I actually work at the mall and when they evacuated us they told us it was an electrical fire. No one knew what was going on, but when the bomb squad showed up we started to wonder, but the police wouldn't tell us anything. They also wouldn't let any of the managers or employees with the store keys leave."
The mall employees who were told to wait outside were moved back even more after the second device was found.
School buses were sent to the area to get the evacuated workers out of the cold while they waited for the mall to reopen, said Cindy Matthews, spokeswoman for West Metro Fire District.
Some employees were interviewed by investigators to see if they saw anything suspicious prior to the fire.
A Jefferson County bomb squad and several K-9 crews swept the entire mall to make sure there were no other devices or hazards. Other malls in the area were also alerted to be on the lookout for suspicious devices, as a precaution.
Employees Searched For Suspicious Devices
Employees were allowed to return to the mall around 5:30 p.m., although the mall remained closed. Some of the employees complained that they were told not to talk to the media while they waited outside for five hours. They said they were afraid of being fired if they did.
Juceam told 7NEWS deputies had him search his own store for anything suspicious.
"After you inspected your store, you were supposed to go out to the (deputy) that was in your hallway and tell them if you found anything," said Juceam. "What do I know? I sell toys. How would I ever possibly know if something was in that store? Sure, you don't know what's in my store, but you have a better idea of what a pipe bomb looks like. I don't. What do I know?"