Suspected arson fire closes Walmart for a week

Lebanon police arrested a 49-year-old male in connection to a fire Tuesday, May 14, that closed the Lebanon Walmart Superstore throughout the week.

Joel Lee Reynolds Jr. was taken into custody at the Lebanon Justice Center on Thursday, May 16, and charged with first-degree arson and first-degree criminal mischief. He was lodged at Linn County Jail.

Walmart was evacuated after the fire broke out in an area of the store where chemicals were stored, the Lebanon Fire District reported.

According to police, there were approximately 100 employees and an unknown number of customers inside the store when the fire started.

The fire was reported a the store at 12:47 p.m. Lebanon Fire District responded and reported smoke showing from the building and the store was being evacuated.

Initial crews made entry into the large shopping center and found that fire suppression sprinkler system was activated. Due to the large amount of smoke being produced, the crews had to use a thermal imagining camera to locate the fire. The sprinkler system kept the fire from expanding past the area where it had started.

The fire was located in an aisle where several different types of chemicals were stored, the LFD said. Crews used a hose line and extinguished the fire.

Fire damage inside the store was mostly contained to one aisle, according to Det. Chris Miner. However, the smoke contaminated a large portion of the store’s interior.

Investigators determined that several chemicals had been mixed, and they ignited, Miner said. The estimated cost of damage remains unknown.

Walmart remained closed until Monday while restoration crews worked , with the garden patio, auto care center and pharmacy open at times beginning Friday.

Due to the scope of the incident, the incident commander upgraded to a second alarm to bring in additional fire resources, as well as the regional HazMat team.

Several businesses to the north had to be evacuated and a couple city streets were closed to protect citizens from the toxic smoke.

The fire produced enough smoke to completely fill the superstore with a chemical-filled smoke. Once the fire was out, it took crews about an hour to clear the smoke to start the initial fire investigation.

Lebanon, Albany and Sweet Home fire departments brought 11 apparatus and approximately 40 personnel to the scene. The Lebanon Police Department helped close streets and conducted evacuations in the area. Also assisting with traffic control and road closures were Oregon State Police, Oregon Department of Transportation and Lebanon Public Works.

No injuries were reported.

The investigation is continuing. Anyone with information should contact the Lebanon Fire District or Miner at LPD at (541) 258-4314.