Fire alarm triggers evacuation at Phoenix Comic Fest

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

A fire alarm triggered an evacuation at the Phoenix Comic Fest downtown Saturday night.

Shortly before 8 p.m., thousands of were forced to leave the event and head outside.

Security workers were seen handing out bottles of water to the crowd waiting to re-enter.

Officials are offering attendees who had to evacuate free wristbands for Sunday admission.

Phoenix fire officials updated the situation shortly after 9:30 p.m.:

"There was a fire alarm indication in the North building but at this time, it seems to be a false indication. However, we have fire prevention specialists on scene checking on the alarm."

During a news conference Sunday, Convention Center officials said that the alarm turned out to be a false one and the Sunday events will continue as planned.

Convention officials added that they will be changing its name to "Phoenix Fan Fusion" starting in 2019. 

The event, which runs through Sunday at the Phoenix Convention Center, had increased security this year, with a new, stricter prop and costume policy.

[RELATED: Phoenix Comic Fest kicks off with revamped prop policy]

The new policy comes after an incident last year where a man was arrested for entering the Fest armed with real guns and knives. Phoenix police said 29-year-old Mathew Sterling made it inside with multiple weapons after threatening police officers.

[READ MORE: PD: Man armed with guns and knives arrested at Phoenix Comicon]

Sterling was posting threats against Phoenix police officers on social media, according to Sgt. Mercedes Fortune with the Phoenix Police Department. The threats indicated that he was armed and wanted to kill them. The postings included photos of officers working the event, she said. 

[RELATED: Actor, officers targeted by Phoenix Comicon armed suspect, police say]

According to court documents, Sterling was also sending Facebook messages listing a victim by name, Jason David Frank, an actor and popular mixed martial artist who is known for playing the original Green Power Ranger in the kids show, Power Rangers. 

Frank was scheduled to appear for all four days of the 2017 event. Documents also state that Sterling set a reminder on his phone to kill Frank at Comicon on May 25, 2017. 

[READ MORE: Surveillance video of man arrested at Comicon released]

Sterling had three handguns, a shotgun, a knife, ammunition and a "variety of other handheld weapons," police said. He reportedly was wearing body armor as well.

[RELATED: Man arrested at Phoenix Comicon pleads not guilty]

The scare last year prompted some major prop changes this year at the Phoenix Comic Fest

“The restriction list is anything that resembles a firearm, bladed steel – anything with sharp edges – explosives, even if they are replicas," marketing director Kristin Rowan said.

The Fest's website says this includes any weapon resembling a firearm such as Star Wars blasters, Overwatch firearms, etc. All props must go through a prop check line located ahead of the regular security checkpoint. Props will be inspected by the Phoenix Police Department and given a tag of approval. Props will not be allowed into the event without a tag. Anyone with an un-tagged prop will not be allowed into the event and will be escorted to the prop checkpoint. Some people brought props ahead of time just to see whether they are admissible.

“So this is my friend’s Iron Spider harness, like the whole robotic legs and everything," Johnny Carwell said as he showed us the metal legs of the costume pack. "Basically he just told me that because of these sharp points right here, we won’t be able to be let through.” 

Square Egg Entertainment, the company behind the event, and Phoenix Convention Center say while cosplay and props are a fun and important part of the Phoenix Comic Fest, safety is their number one concern. 

“There are people whose cosplays just don’t work with the prop restrictions that we have, and of course, they’re upset about it," Rowan said.

But cartoonist Mike Kunkel, for one, likes the changes.

“It’s probably good because it keeps everybody feeling comfortable once they get in," he said. "Then there’s not an issue – everybody just has gone through the same gauntlet."

More information on the costume and prop policy can be found here

The event includes appearances by fan-favorite actors, authors and creators as well as vendors, shops and fun for the whole family. 

More information can be found at phoenixcomicfest.com

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