Walmart Distribution Center Fire

Risk Logic Inc. (RLI) is a consulting engineering company that provides Loss Prevention Services. Since 1997, we have been working in regions all over the world utilizing the most advanced and current standards.

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March 17th, 2022

A large fire broke out in a 1.2 million ft2 Walmart e-commerce distribution center (DC) in Plainfield, Indiana around noon on Wednesday, March 16, 2022. The fire reportedly started on a third-floor mezzanine storage area with the local county communications center notified at about 11:57 AM. The fire department was training nearby and responded to the site within 3 minutes. Sprinkler protection was reported as operating upon fire department arrival.

Despite this, the fire department retreated to a defensive attack from the outside after 45 minutes and the warehouse became fully engulfed in flames soon thereafter. Eighteen (18) agencies provided mutual aid. All 1,000 Walmart employees were able to evacuate safely and there was only one minor injury reported to a firefighter. The second, adjacent Walmart E-commerce distribution center was also evacuated and operations were subsequently shut down. Walmart representatives reported that there should be no online order delays using their extensive distribution network.

The building appears to be a total loss with fire activities continuing the next day. The cause of the fire is unknown and the investigation is continuing.

Project details indicate that this speculative warehouse was built in 2014 and included precast concrete walls and a TPO membrane roof with a 40 ft. clear height. Two fire pumps (one diesel and one electric) were provided suctioning from two, 300,000 gal. aboveground suction tanks. ESFR sprinkler protection was provided. Specifications also note that a VESDA aspirating smoke detection system and a Maximum Foreseeable Loss (MFL) wall were installed.

While full details of the fire are unknown, this event and other recent large, uncontrolled DC fires bring up several critical loss prevention points. Proper inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) of fire protection systems in accordance with NFPA 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems are needed. This standard also addresses fire protection impairments. Fire protection systems need to be properly designed, including consideration of any special hazards such as flammable and combustible liquids and aerosols. A pre-incident plan with the local fire department should be developed and reviewed on an annual basis. The Fighting Fire in Sprinklered Buildings training programs offered by FM Global is an excellent resource for fire service personnel.

Contact Risk Logic for a site inspection, which will include the review of fire protection system
designs, ITM programs and impairment management procedures. RLI can also help with pre-incident planning with the local fire department.