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Since You Asked: Firewalls can be breached

The Poplar Square fire last summer made me ask "Why don't they have firewalls in the attics separating each business?" Are most malls built like that, with an open space from one end to the other?

— Alice B., Medford

P.S. Thieves can travel from one business to another up there, too. It has been done.

Firewalls are required in large retail centers, but the fire separation areas are based on total square footage of the structure and types of building material used, so they might not always align with the stores inside, Medford Fire Marshal Dan Patterson said.

Walls designed to stop fires must extend to the roof line and through any parapets or facades so flames can't burn around them.

Patterson said the Poplar Square firewalls had been breached after they were built, which allowed flames to spread during the June 12 fire. He explained that openings in firewalls are often made when changes such as new phone lines or other telecommunication wiring, signs or other updates are made to a building.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.