Cause of massive fire Walmart at distribution center could take weeks to determine

Determining what caused a massive fire at the Walmart online order fulfillment distribution center northwest of Indianapolis could take days or even weeks, CBS 4 in Indianapolis reported.

The fire sent a large plume of smoke into the air Wednesday was still burning Thursday.

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The Plainfield Fire Department posted photos of the fire on its Facebook page around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday showing the entire roof engulfed in fire.

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The majority of the fire has been extinguished, however smoke and flames were still seen around 5 a.m. from a row of semis, CBS 4 reported.

Plainfield Fire Chief Brent Anderson said it appeared the fire started on the third floor of the warehouse. CBS 4 reported the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will take the lead in determining what caused it to start.

Anderson told CBS 4 the warehouse contained a variety of items set for distribution, including clothing, food, electronics and a lot of shipping materials.

“If you can think of it, it’s probably in there,” Anderson said.

News Center 7 asked Walmart if the fire might impact any people who order items online from Walmart that would be shipped to the Dayton area, but the company was unable to offer specifics on how it will impact.

“We’ve already taken steps to limit the impact to customers by relying on the resiliency of our supply chain facilities and stores across the country to help shoulder the load as we work to normalize operations,” said Tyler Thomason, spokesman for Walmart.

Thomason said the facility does not ship anything to physical stores.

CBS 4 in Indianapolis reported the smoke was so thick it was being picked up on weather radar.

Nearly 200 firefighters responded to the scene. Officials called on anyone living near the plume of smoke to shelter in place and stay indoors along with not touching any of the debris that rained down on the city’s west side, CBS 4 reported.

Fire officials said the building is a 1.2 million square foot building located at 9590 AllPoints Parkway near the Indianapolis International Airport.

Anderson said firefighters fought the blaze inside the warehouse for a half-hour before having to retreat and pull crews out of the building and switch to a defensive operation, CBS 4 reported. For a few minutes, two firefighters were unaccounted for during the retreat leading to a “few tense minutes,” he said.

Fire officials said there are no injuries as a result of the fire. Around 1,000 Walmart employees were inside the warehouse at the time of the fire, according to CBS 4.

Employees were transported by Plainfield school buses to a reunification site, officials said. Officials said many employees had to leave their phones during evacuation and couldn’t contact family, CBS 4 reported.

The Indianapolis Airport said there was no impact on airport operations due to the fire.

Firefighters said people living close to the facility may see fire crews checking air quality, because its still unclear what material may have burned in the fire, CBS 4 reported.