Regina, SK, Canada – Boy sets fire to paper towel aisle at superstore, fire sprinklers keep fire at bay; No injuries reported

A 12-year-old boy is scheduled to appear in court Thursday in connection with a fire that started in the paper towel aisle of the Rochdale Walmart in Regina’s north end.

The boy has been charged with arson, the Regina Police Service said.

Police and fire trucks rushed to the store around 8:30 p.m. CST on Tuesday, after smoke was reported in the building. Staff and shoppers were evacuated from the building.

“The building was filled with a really thick, bad-smelling smoke,” said Jordan Blodgett, who was at a Tim Hortons near the store and saw the fire response.

Taylor Deis was at Walmart at the time and confirmed the fire was coming from the paper towel aisle. She captured a quick video before staff and customers had to leave.

Fellow shopper Michelle Morrow never saw the source of the fire, nor did she hear a fire alarm.

Her only indication that something was wrong, aside from the smoke, was a man speaking unclearly over the intercom telling people to “get out.”

Morrow said she wasn’t impressed by the evacuation methods.

Blodgett took video of the scene outdoors, showing a smokey haze floating from the Walmart entrance and red fire truck lights flashing.

Regina police say firefighters put out the fire and cleared the building. Fire Marshal Randy Ryba said investigators were on scene until about 1 a.m. assessing the situation. 

He confirmed the fire was started in the paper towel section of the store. The building’s sprinkler system kept the fire at bay until fire crews arrived on the scene, he said.

“I’m not sure if it was a lighter or match, but that’s all it took,” Ryba said. “It did cause a great deal of smoke and water damage throughout the store.”

Ryba said Walmart is assessing the damage and said it would be “a great deal of time” before the store can reopen.

When contacted by CBC News, Walmart said once the necessary clean-up and repair work is completed, the store will reopen. In the meantime, staff at the Rochdale location will be working in nearby stores.

Police say no one was injured.

Police said the investigation was assisted by management and security staff at the store, who made surveillance video available.

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