Shoppers Flee Store 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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August 31st, 2022

At 7:20 p.m. on August 24th, 2022, a large fire in a retail store forced shoppers to flee. As the fire engulfed the retail portions of the store, four fire departments arrived to evacuate the building and contain the fire.

Smoke rises from large retail store fire.
Smoke rises from the building as firefighters douse flames from above.

First responders rushed into the burning building and safely evacuated customers and store employees. Three police officers suffered smoke inhalation injuries after breathing in too much smoke while yelling for people to evacuate the store. The injured first responders were taken to and released from a hospital emergency room.

Collapsed roof due to the large retail fire.
Drone footage shows the collapsed portion of the roof after the fire.

Initially, emergency crews were fighting the fire from inside the store. However, the fast-moving fire quickly reached inside the ceiling.  Then, the roof began to collapse on the emergency crews inside the store, forcing them out of the building. The incident commander made the decision to continue fighting the fire from the outside. Drone videos above the store show a large hole in the roof. 

Customers had cell phones out recording videos and snapping pictures. Emergency crews have videos taken inside the store showing fire in the background during the evacuation. 

Isles of Walmart during the large retail fire.
The paper goods isle is shown engulfed by flames and smoke.

Supermarkets and box stores typically contain large fire loads with varying types of combustible storage including plastic goods, ignitable liquids, and aerosol products.

Investigators believe an arsonist intentionally started the fire. The arson investigators entered the flaming building to begin their work. A top priority was the retrieval of security camera footage. Investigators collected videos and photographs made by shoppers, store employees, and emergency crews.

Storefront prior to the large retail fire.
The storefront prior to the incident on August 24th.

Adequately designed, installed, and maintained automatic sprinklers provide the best overall protection against fire. Although automatic sprinklers were provided at this store, they may have been overwhelmed by an accelerant or multiple points of origin. Information on sprinkler system standards can be found here.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provides advice for large retail store fire prevention in their article The Big Box Challenge.  Routine inspections of fire hazards and fire prevention systems can minimize threats to businesses. Risk Logic engineers are equipped to perform inspections and supply standardized recommendations to keep your business and buildings safe. Risk Logic can inspect your facility and make applicable recommendations to help prevent losses like this from occurring. Contact Risk Logic for a full inspection.