By Jason A. Smith
McDonough fire officials, on Wednesday, were trying to determine what caused a fire behind the McDonough Walmart store.
The fire occurred Wednesday at approximately 2 a.m., behind the Walmart at 135 Willow Lane, according to McDonough Fire Chief Steve Morgan. He said a store manager called authorities to the scene.
The blaze burned approximately 70 bales of cardboard, each one weighing about 500 pounds. Wooden pallets used by store employees were also damaged, Morgan added.
"The fire is suspicious in nature, because things like that don't just catch on fire by themselves," Morgan said.
He estimated the fire caused approximately $14,000 worth of damage to 18 tons of material at the store. The chief added that Walmart had enlisted the help of Belfor Property Restoration to clean up the debris.
No injuries were reported as a result of the fire. Morgan credited firefighters from the Henry County Fire Department for their assistance in putting out the flames.
McDonough Firefighter Jim Harvey watched, Wednesday afternoon, as Belfor personnel worked to clear the scene where the fire took place. He said the clean-up effort would likely require filling at least six Dumpsters with debris from the store.
Harvey added that the fire department was reviewing security camera footage from the store.
"We have people on video from a Walmart security camera, who we believe to be involved," Harvey said. "We just can't identify them as of yet."
Managers at the Walmart store declined to comment on the investigation, instead deferring to representatives from their corporate office. Ashley Hardie, a spokesperson for Walmart, said company leaders were "grateful no one was injured" in the fire.
"Safety is our top priority," she said. "We thank the McDonough Fire Department for their quick response. We are continuing to work with the fire department."
Chuck Brislin, a production manager for Belfor, said his company has a contract with Walmart to conduct restoration and emergency services in the event of fire or water damage to the store.
"We should be completed with the clean-up sometime [today]," said Brislin. "We will have to restore it to its natural state, rebuilding the fence that was destroyed, and re-stabilizing the slope bank where the fence was. It will probably take us a week."