CEDAR PARK, Texas (KXAN) — “Lots of black smoke just radiating from that area,” described Jackie Sinclair, who was inside Walmart early Wednesday morning as flames shot up to the ceiling.
The fire happened at the store on 201 Walton Way in Cedar Park around 1:44 a.m. Sinclair posted video to Facebook of the flames, which appear to be in an aisle behind the watches and jewelry section. Cedar Park Fire Department says two separate fires were set inside, one near the apparel and another in the vacuum aisle. Police are investigating it as arson.
“How did this happen?” Sinclair says on the video. “Time to go — that’s a little too big for my taste.”
Sinclair said she had just gotten off work and was stopping by Walmart to get some groceries and avoid the crowds. “That’s crazy, like I’ve never seen nothing like that before, so I didn’t really understand what was going on.”
Police do have a suspect who has been interviewed, but not arrested. Investigators say it is not a Walmart employee. “It is unusual, of course, I don’t know a lot of details of the motive right now,” explains Randle Blesing, fire marshal for the Cedar Park Fire Department.
Blesing says three sprinkler heads went off, putting out most of the flames. Walmart employees evacuated the store. “Thirty seconds in, I was like in, I shot the video and I was out, I did not want to stay in there,” recalls Sinclair.
No one was hurt. The cause of the fire is still being investigated.
The store will remain closed until further notice so staff can assess the damage. Walmart says employees at the Cedar Park store are being reassigned to nearby stores so they can still work and won’t lose any hours.
People have set fires in other Walmart stores before. A quick Google search turns up more than a dozen in the past few years. The damage can be expensive. Two years ago, fires in a West Virginia Walmart caused more than $2 million in losses. Police arrested and charged two 12-year-old boys for starting those fires.
Last year, a man lit a fireworks display on fire inside a Walmart in Phoenix. No one was hurt, but the store sustained several million dollars worth of water and fire damage. Police arrested a suspect a few months later and charged him with arson.