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Fire closes Murphysboro Walmart; company aims to reopen in just a few weeks

  • A view from the front of Walmart on Wednesady morning as smoke rises up from the roof at the back of the store.

    A view from the front of Walmart on Wednesady morning as smoke rises up from the roof at the back of the store.
    Photo by Lisa Forby/Courtesy of Will Stephens Facebook

  • On Thursday, a guard is in place to turn shoppers away from the entrance to the Murphysboro Walmart parking lot.

    On Thursday, a guard is in place to turn shoppers away from the entrance to the Murphysboro Walmart parking lot.
    Curtis Winston photo

 
By Renee Trappe
rtrappe@localsouthernnews.com
updated: 3/13/2022 7:40 PM

Walmart representatives have told Murphysboro city officials that they would like to have the Walmart store reopened in just a couple weeks.

"It really surprised me," said Murphysboro Mayor Will Stephens on Thursday, who posted on Facebook Wednesday that he expected the store to be closed for a "significant" amount of time after Wednesday morning's fire.

Stephens said the fire, which started in the store's roof, burned a hole 40 feet in diameter and filled the store with so much smoke that most of the inventory is unsalvageable.

According to the mayor, the fire started between 9 and 10 a.m. on Wednesday in the roof of the back of the building. It is unclear how long it burned before anyone noticed - when burning material fell through the ceiling and into the shoe department.

Walmart employees rushed over with fire extinguishers to put out the burning material at store level, while Walmart made public announcements, telling shoppers to leave their carts and quickly leave the store through the front entrances.

No one was injured, he added. Murphysboro fire and police responded as well as the Carbondale Fire Department. As of Thursday the cause of the fire was undetermined - the initial thinking, Stephens said, is that something went wrong with the roof-mounted solar device on the building.

Stephens said the Walmart Corporation has responded with impressive speed.

"They had a restoration company on site the night of the fire," he said.

The mayor arrived at Walmart after the fire was put out. He saw a thin layer of soot covering the inside of the building.

Meanwhile, people with prescriptions at Walmart will be going to the Carbondale Walmart to get them filled for at least a little while, Stephens said. The store had hoped to open up a curbside pharmacy but their stock of prescription drugs did not escape the intense smoke.

Meanwhile, there is no doubt that Walmart intends to reopen the store at its currently Murphysboro location, the mayor said. The store first opened in 2014.

"Walmart is such a deep pocket organization, they are not asking for city assistance of any kind." Stephens said.

He said they won't know for another three months how much sales taxes will be lost when the store is closed for a few weeks.