An artificial Christmas tree stored on top of a cooler caught fire Tuesday evening at The Fresh Market in the Westlake Shopping Center and caused an estimated $250,000 in damages, according to the Peoria Fire Department. The fire caused extensive smoke damage, but minimal fire damage and no injuries, according to the Fire Department. The store’s sprinkler system was activated for nearly 30 minutes, said Fire Department Division Chief Paul Brodkorb. The sprinkler system made it difficult for firefighters to use thermal imaging to find the fire, according to a Fire Department news release. After turning off the sprinkler system, firefighters tracked the source of the fire to a Christmas tree stored on top of a walk-in cooler.
Inside, there was heavy black smoke for about 45 minutes, likely ruining a good portion of the food, according to Peoria Battalion Chief J.R. Malone. The Health Department was on scene to figure out what needed to be discarded. It is unlikely, Malone said, that The Fresh Market will be back open Wednesday. Officials are investigating how the tree caught fire. The fire was reported at 6:36 p.m. Firefighters arrived at 6:40 p.m. and had the fire under control about 7:30 p.m., according to the Fire Department. The Fresh Market was evacuated, as well as the neighboring Guitar Center and Ross Dress for Less store.