Columbia, SC – Overnight arson fire at Walmart held in check by sprinkler system

Blog Editor Note: Fire sprinkler system SAVED the store and minimized fire damage. Store re-opened three days later, allowing employees to return to work.

Media Report: Two men have been charged with second-degree arson in connection with Tuesday’s fire that caused $3 million in damages at the Harbison Walmart, according to police. Steven D. Edwards, 41, and Bobby J. Murphy Jr., 46, are being held at the Lexington County Detention Center, police said. The fire happened Tuesday around 3 a.m. at the Walmart that sits just off Harbison Boulevard near Interstate 26. When crews arrived, heavy smoke filled the store and flames covered one of the food aisles, Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins told The State.

The store’s sprinkler system kept the fire in check, Jenkins said. Still, the fire, which investigators believe started in one of the food aisles, caused “significant” damage to inventory and the store. A few employees and customers were inside the building during the fire, but no one was injured, authorities said. The Walmart re-opened Friday. The Columbia Police Department said tips from Crimestoppers of the Midlands and Lexington County Sheriff’s Department helped find Edwards and Murphy.

The men will be transferred to Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, where a bond hearing will be held. Police had also announced a third person of interest in connection with the fire. A woman arrived with the two suspects in an older, green SUV, police said, but no arrest was announced. Both suspects have prior unrelated convictions. Edwards pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana and receiving stolen goods in 2018, court records show. In 2009 and 2016, Murphy pleaded guilty to charges of domestic violence, cruelty to children, and manufacturing methamphetamine, according to records. The 2016 meth charge was suspended from 5 years in prison to 2 years probation.

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