The Buckhannon Walmart evacuated all customers and staff Thursday afternoon when a HVAC unit above the self-checkout section caught on fire. No injuries were reported.
According to Buckhannon Fire Department Chief JB Kimble, an HVAC system seized up, preventing the belt from turning, which then caused the belt to catch fire. This resulted in a small fire inside the ductwork after some material fell into the interior ceiling of the building.
Kimble explained, “There are multiple units on the roof of Walmart, and it continues to work, so that smoke gets into the ductwork and goes everywhere in the building. So, you gotta find it and isolate it, get that one unit shut off and clear the building.”
The Buckhannon Fire Department, Warren District Fire Department, Adrian Volunteer Fire Department, Washington District Volunteer Fire Company, Buckhannon Police Department and Upshur County EMS all responded. The firefighters eventually gave Walmart the all clear about an hour after responding. The store remained closed for approximately an hour, but then reopened later that evening.
In an official statement, Walmart spokesperson Robert Arrieta shared, “We had an electrical fire that temporarily interfered with our store operations for about an hour. We are thankful to the fire departments and first responders that helped get this situation under control so quickly. Our store is open and our associates are happy to serve their community.”
Susie Campbell was near the greeting card department when she saw “a good bit” of smoke and noticed a burning smell like “hot tar or oil.” She reported, “I didn’t know what was going on, they just told me to get out.”
Kimble explained that this is not out of the ordinary and stated, “It’s just like a belt on a car, it could go bad at any time.”
Chief Kimble wants to remind everyone that driving over a fire hose is against the law. If driven over, the hose will have to be retested. If it fails, the driver can be charged the amount it takes to replace the section(s) they have driven over. Kimble estimated that one 100-foot section of hose costs approximately $800.