UPDATED 4 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 25 — It has been nearly 24 hours since flames were reported inside the Walmart store on Ga. Highway 54 West in Peachtree City. Three city police officers were treated for smoke inhalation, and many firefighters had to contend with the August heat in addition to the store fire.
Though the fire is out, investigators are working to determine whether arson was the cause of the massive fire.
The huge store — part of its roof collapsed, as shown in an accompanying photo taken by a drone — is closed today, and the chance of it reopening anytime soon is problematic. Thousands of gallons of water were poured through the openings formed by the roof collapse, soaking large areas on the sales floor. Smoke and fire damage likely affected much of the merchandise.
Extinguishing the blaze in the massive superstore required fire departments from Peachtree City, Fayetteville, Fayette County, Newnan and Coweta County. For some hours Wednesday night, high-pressure water hoses ran across the four lanes of Ga. Highway 54 West, requiring closing the busy thoroughfare to all traffic. The hose ran to fire hydrants that supplied additional water to onsite water supplies.
The Walmart fire was the largest commercial structure fire in many years in Peachtree City, maybe the largest ever locally. Damages may total into the multiple millions of dollars.
The fire alarm call at 7:21 p.m. on Wednesday sent firefighters and police to the scene, where customers and employees were evacuating after the in-store alarm sounded and the sprinkler system activated.
Firefighters found smoke coming from the rear of the store and, once inside, they found flames inside the merchandise area. Firefighters had to remove themselves from inside the store after trusses on the ceiling began to fall, fire officials said last night.
A photo of the roof where the fire broke through shows damage on the northwest area of the store.
Firefighters then fought the fire from the building’s exterior, using ladder trucks to deploy water onto the roof.
The only medical issues reported included three Peachtree City police officers treated for smoke inhalation and one member of the public that had a medical complaint, and was treated at the scene and released, Assistant Fire Chief Wil Harbin said Wednesday night.
Aside from the obvious clean-up and other assessments by Walmart, fire officials are continuing their work to determine the cause of the blaze.
Within minutes of arriving after the first alarms, one of the police officers helping to clear the darkened store of any people still present reported via his bodycam that “it was a very large fire” that involved both the electronics department and the aisles of clothing.
Today the department is asking for witnesses to the fire in its early stages to report what they saw. “The Peachtree City Police Department is assisting the Fire Department with investigating the cause of a structure fire that started around 7 p.m. at the Peachtree City Wal-Mart.
“If you have any relevant information regarding the potential cause of the fire or observed any suspicious behavior that you think could be related and you have not already given a statement to an officer on scene please, contact Sgt. Brad Milstein at email@example.com.”
One person posted on the department’s Facebook page a photo of flames in the aisle with paper products and another said, “looks like arson to me. Paper plates just don’t catch fire by themselves.”
UPDATED 9:45 P.M. WEDNESDAY, AUG. 24 — Crews fighting the fire at the Walmart in Peachtree City expect to have the blaze extinguished sometime tonight. Aside from the damage to the store, the fire that began inside the building shortly after 7 p.m. came with three Peachtree City police officers receiving treatment for smoke inhalation and one member of the public treated and released at the scene.
Assistant Fire Chief Will Harbin commenting at 9:10 p.m. said 911 received the fire call at 7:21 p.m., along with a water flow alarm call indicating that the store’s sprinkler system had been activated.
Police and firefighters arrived quickly, as customers and employees evacuated after the in-store alarm sounded and the sprinkler system activated, said Harbin.
Harbin said firefighters initially saw smoke coming from the rear of the store, soon finding heavy fire in the shopping area and coming from the merchandise racks.
Harbin noted that the fire spread, making its way toward the ceiling, with trusses then beginning to fall. It was at that point that firefighters, for safety reasons, took a defensive position outside the building by using ladder trucks to deploy water onto the roof.
The only medical issues reported included three Peachtree City police officers with smoke inhalation and one member of the public that had a medical complaint, and was treated at the scene and released, Harbin explained.
Harbin said he expects the fire to be contained sometime tonight.
The fire marshal is on the scene to investigate the cause of the blaze.
FIRST REPORT —
Firefighters from multiple jurisdictions are currently fighting a fire at the Walmart store on Ga. Highway 54 West in Peachtree City.
Commenting on the blaze at 8:15 p.m., Peachtree City Fire Rescue Fire Marshall Jeff Felmet said preliminary information indicated that the fire is inside the store toward the middle of the building.
Felmet said there are no injuries reported at this time.
Units from Peachtree City, Fayette County, Fayetteville and Coweta County are conducting defensive operations in fighting the blaze, indicating that units are using ladder trucks to disperse water onto the roof.
More information will be provided as it becomes available.