LANCASTER – About 200 customers and workers were evacuated from the East Lancaster Walmart store around noon Tuesday due to a fire in the bedding section, according to an eyewitness.
Three fire engines from Lancaster responded to the scene as smoke engulfed the store. witnesses said. It took less than 15 minutes to put out the flames.
Lancaster sheriff’s deputies also responded and are investigating the incident as arson, deputies said.
The Sheriff’s Department’s Arson and Explosives unit responded to the scene to conduct an investigation.
The Walmart store, which is located at 1731 East Avenue J, re-opened at around 2:30 p.m., according to Walmart regional spokesperson Betsy Harden. She said the store was back open, however, specific portions of the store affected by the fire were most likely roped off.
Harden referred specific questions on the fire to the Sheriff’s Department.
According to Captain Scott Pugh of Fire Station 135, Los Angeles County Fire Department, firefighters were dispatched to the scene just after 12 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 3, to a “commercial structure fire” at the East Lancaster Walmart.
“When we arrived, we found it was pretty much a small contents fire,” Pugh said, adding that fire officials used smoke blowers to get the smoke out the store. “We don’t necessarily know the cause at this time. That’s under investigation by the sheriff’s department,” Pugh said.
Several eyewitnesses have said that Walmart employees used fire extinguishers to put out the fire, after customers called attention to the flames. Sources also say the fire may have been set by juveniles, but this information has not been confirmed by the sheriff’s department. The incident remains under investigation.