Fort Worth, TX – Sprinkler system extinguishes arson fire at Wal-Mart; Damage limited to one aisle

A 36-year-old man lit a fire at a Wal-Mart in far north Fort Worth last week to create a diversion and steal money, but he “chickened out” and left the store empty-handed, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. Gilberto Hernandez was charged with arson this week, accused in a fire at the Wal-Mart in the 2400 block of Avondale Haslet Road on July 3. The fire was contained to one aisle and was extinguished by the store’s sprinkler system.  Hernandez, in an interview with arson investigators, admitted setting the fire, according to an affidavit written by investigator M.B. Sims.

Hernandez said he had been “casing” the Wal-Mart for more than two months and had managed to steal a manager’s set of keys, the affidavit said. On July 3, he went to the store with his wife, who was unaware of his plans to set a fire. At the store, Hernandez grabbed a flammable product from the automotive department, spread it on merchandise in the drapes aisle and started a fire with a cigarette lighter.   At a cash register, he told an employee that he smelled smoke. “He said he made this comment so that someone would put the fire out,” the affidavit said. “He said he couldn’t go through with stealing the money after all.”

Investigators obtained surveillance video of Hernandez walking into the drapes aisle with a container of fuel additive, the affidavit said. Photographs and video of him leaving the store were released to news outlets last week and investigators received numerous tips identifying Hernandez as the suspect.  Fort Worth police initially arrested Hernandez at his home Thursday on an unrelated warrant out of Indiana. He remained in the Tarrant County Jail on Tuesday with bail set at $50,000.

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