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Harbison Wal-Mart temporarily closed after suspicious fire in grocery section

Columbia, SC (Paul Kirby) – An early morning fire that did an estimated $3 million dollars in damages to the Wal-Mart in Harbison has been deemed suspicious by the Columbia Fire Department. Even though the store is in Lexington County, it is also in the City of Columbia. That gives jurisdiction over the fire investigation to the Columbia Fire & Police Departments.

The fire started sometime around 3:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. The store’s management said that about 25 people were in the building at the time of the fire. There were no reported injuries. The automatic sprinklers in the area of the fire activated, keeping the fire from spreading until firefighters arrived.

The Irmo Fire District and the Batesburg-Leesville Fire Departments both responded from their stations in Lexington County. Irmo runs a large percentage of their calls with the Columbia Fire Department under an automatic aid agreement. They provide the city access to an aerial truck, fire engines, and manpower. Columbia responds to return the favor as needed.

Batesburg-Leesville was called because they have the only “Super Fan” for ventilation in the Midlands. This fan, powered by a V-8 engine, is equipped with an airplane propeller that moves a tremendous amount of air. It is directed at an opening in the smoked filled building until there is a build up of air pressure inside. Then, when a door or other outlet is opened on the other side of the structure, the smoke comes rushing out. Chief Jay Hendrix of the Batesburg-Leesville FD said that they have always been happy to loan this special piece of equipment to any department that asks. Hendrix says that the fan, the truck that tows it, and its operator were headed back to their town just after 6:00 a.m.

Columbia’s fire chief said later Tuesday that store employees were carefully assessing the damage to the store, its fixtures, and its stock. After fire and building officials are satisfied the building is safe and the sprinklers are ready to go, the store’s management will decide when the Wal-Mart can reopen.

Batesburg-Leesville FD's Super Fan

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