By Jason Smith and Elaine Rackley
A Stockbridge Kroger store was back in business Thursday, after it experienced a fire in its snack aisle, a company spokesman said.
The fire has been deemed "highly suspicious," by Brad Johnson, Henry County Fire Department's division chief of operations.
Firefighters responded in less than a minute after the call came in Tuesday, at 11:24 p.m., because Fire Station No. 8 is across the street from the store, located at 1750 Hudson Bridge Road, said Johnson.
"It is very suspicious," he added. "We are working closely with Henry County police investigators, our arson unit and store officials."
Fire officials acknowledged that they are uncertain about the number of people who might have been involved with starting the fire. However, they are reviewing surveillance footage from the store.
"A product ignited in the grocery store," Johnson said. "We are just trying to get all the pieces of the puzzle, and put them together.'
Johnson said firefighters were aided in their effort because "the sprinkler system held the fire until firefighters went in and completely extinguished the fire." It took 20 minutes to end the fire, the division chief said.
Several callers to the Henry Daily Herald said there were reports the fire was posted on YouTube, but efforts to locate the video revealed Thursday afternoon there was a notice that whatever was on it, had been pulled.
"Fortunately, no one was injured," said Kroger Company Director of Communications and Public Relations Glynn Jenkins. However, he said the store sustained significant product loss as a result of smoke, soot, and fire damage.
"The fire, [resulted] in smoke and damage to a 20-foot, aisle section in the grocery department," said Jenkins. "The store was closed on Wednesday for customer safety, and to properly assess damages."
Carl Morris, 82 , of Stockbridge lives behind the grocery store, on Oakwood Manor Drive. He said he was not at the store when the fire occurred, but did notice cleaning equipment in the store the following day.
"I went there this morning [Thursday], a security guard told me I couldn't go in because the store is closed," said Morris.
There were multiple callers from inside the store, and the alarm company also contacted the fire department, fire officials said. The store re-opened at noon Thursday and has resumed normal business hours, Kroger officials said.
"Thanks to the hard work of Kroger associates and vendors, the store has been cleaned and departments replenished with fresh, new product," said Jenkins.