MORENO VALLEY – An employee was injured when a fire erupted inside a busy Moreno Valley Wal-Mart Saturday morning, April 8. The store is in the 12700 block of Moreno Beach Drive in Moreno Valley.
The fire, which reportedly began in the clothing section of the store, sent some shoppers scrambling out of the business. While store employees called 911 to report the fire and began evacuating the store, one Wal-Mart employee took charge of the situation and battled the small, but growing blaze with one of the store’s fire extinguishers.
After the fire was reported, emergency first responders from multiple agencies rushed to the Wal-Mart just after 10 a.m.
Twenty-five firefighters from six engine companies and one truck company from Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire and City of Moreno Valley Fire Departments responded to the reported blaze, according to Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire spokeswoman Jody Hagemann. They were later assisted by Riverside County Environmental Health officials.
Authorities began arriving at the store within minutes of the initially dispatched call.
“The first arriving company officer reported clothing on fire inside the store that was extinguished via fire extinguisher by an employee,” Hagemann explained. “All employees and patrons safely evacuated the structure prior to fire department arrival.”
The employee who helped put out the fire, who was not identified, was transported to an area hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation and asthma-related symptoms.
Thanks at least in large part to the fast actions of the employee who extinguished the fire, there were no other injuries reported from citizens or emergency personnel.
Fire resources remained at the scene for about one hour and the store was temporarily closed after the incident to allow employees time to remove the charred debris, clean the store and quickly re-stock the shelves.
The store reopened several hours later, about 3 p.m.
Although many shoppers fled the store immediately after the first sign of fire, one frustrated Wal-Mart employee – who declined to be identified – later described how after the fire broke out some guests ignored the obvious fire danger and continued shopping as if nothing was happening.
According to the employee, some other guests used the opportunity as a chance to shoplift from the store, while employees were distracted by dealing with the fire and trying to evacuate shoppers; some of whom had to be convinced or even told to leave the store.
After the fire started, “many customers continued shopping and their daily business as if nothing was wrong,” the employee said. “Neglecting their own safety, they saw the fire and mandatory evacuation as an inconvenience. Only at the insistence of store employees and management did the shoppers leave their selections behind.”
The cause of the fire is under investigation, according to Hagemann, who estimated the loss to be about $10,000 in product and property damage.