A fire ignited inside the loading dock area of the Carson Pirie Scott department store at the North Riverside Park Mall early Wednesday, sending smoke throughout the store and into the main area of the mall.

Fire damage was contained to the loading dock area, which is located on the south side of the store, but Fire Chief Bran Basek said that the ground floor area of Carson’s was “fully charged” with smoke when firefighter arrived shortly after the alarm call came in at about 3:50 a.m.

Because of the heavy smoke, firefighters initially had a difficult time locating the fire. But after cutting off the overhead garage door of the loading dock and deploying a large fan supplied by the Lyons Fire Department, they were able to pinpoint the loading dock as the source of the fire.

Once the fire was located, it took about 15 to 20 minutes to extinguish the fire, Basek said. The store’s fire sprinkler system was able to keep the fire, which was centered on merchandise stored on racks inside the loading dock, from spreading. Fire crews were released from the scene by 7:30 a.m.

“All of our systems worked as they were supposed to,” said Harvey Ahitow, general manager of North Riverside Park Mall. “We believe there was no damage to any tenant spaces.”

Ahitow said that the mall would open for business as usual on Wednesday. It’s unclear whether Carson’s will open for business on Wednesday. An employee at the store hung up on a reporter who asked what the status of the store was.

Karyn Byrne, the village’s code enforcement officer said Carson’s was cleared for occupancy and that the decision on when to re-open the store to customers was up to the company.

Fire investigators and village inspectors have already visited the mall to assess the situation.

Officials are still uncertain what sparked the fire. No employees were inside the store at the time.

Among the departments responding to the incident were Broadview, Forest Park, Berwyn, Brookfield, Oak Park, Riverside, Cicero and Lyons.