Waterloo Regional Police are investigating after fires were set inside three Walmart stores in Kitchener and Waterloo on Tuesday night.
Police say emergency services were called to the Walmart location in the Sunrise Shopping Centre on Ottawa Street South near Fischer Hallman Road around 9:15 p.m. for a reported blaze.
“On arrival, they found an active fire in the paper products, while primarily toilet paper and other related products,” Tom Ruggle, Kitchener’s Chief Fire Prevention Officer, said.
Firefighters quickly put out the blaze.
At around 10 p.m., police said emergency services were called to the Walmart in Stanley Park Mall on River Road East near Ottawa Street North for another reported fire.
Similar to the first fire, someone lit paper products on fire, which needed to be extinguished by the Kitchener Fire Department.
Twenty minutes later, Waterloo Fire Rescue was called to the Walmart in the Bridgeport Plaza at Bridgeport Road East and Weber Street South.
“Firefighters confirmed entry into the store and encountered smoke banking down from the ceiling while conducting a primary search of the entire area,” Waterloo fire chief Richard Hepditch said.
“Fire crews ensured the fire was confined and supported extinguishment of the fire which was kept in check by an active sprinkler-head/life-safety system.”
Similar to the KItchener fires, Waterloo police said the fire was started in the paper products aisle.
“All Waterloo Fire Stations responded to this incident where a total of 21 firefighters and 6 fire apparatus were involved.”
The Ontario Fire Marshal’s office estimated the cost of the three fires to be at around $12 million.
”The fires were relatively small and contained,” Ruggle explained about the damage the stores had sustained. “However, there was a fair bit of smoke that was produced at the time of the fire.”
Manny Garcia, who is a supervisor with the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office, says the damage could have been a lot worse.“Thankfully, these these large, big box stores such as Wal-Mart, they are protected by sprinkler systems,” he explained.“There was also intervention by a storing employee with a fire extinguisher, and that certainly helped slow down the fire progress until the sprinkler went off.“
There were no injuries reported in connection with any of the fires.
Walmart kept the stores closed into Wednesday afternoon as it dealt with the clean-up and repairs
“The stores will re-open as soon as possible while we work with officials to ensure the stores are safe and up to the standards our customers expect and deserve,” the company said in a statement.
“This appears to be a criminal act that will unfortunately impact many of our customers and associates in the middle of the pandemic. We are working closely with officials as they investigate”.
Police are treating the fires as arson.