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Irmo & Batesburg-Leesville firefighters assist Columbia with fire at Harbison Boulevard Wal-Mart

Irmo, SC (Paul Kirby) – Firefighters and equipment from the Irmo Fire District and the Batesburg-Leesville Fire Department, both in Lexington County, responded to assist the City of Columbia Fire Department early Tuesday with a fire at the Wal-Mart Super Center on Harbison Boulevard. The call was dispatched around 3:30 a.m. and Irmo’s first due officer received a report that this was a “working” fire about the time he arrived on scene. A working fire is generally a fire that can cause considerable damage to property or even loss of lives until it’s brought under control.

The Irmo FD runs a large percentage of their calls as automatic aid with the Columbia FD. They had fire equipment and personnel on the scene very quickly after dispatch Tuesday morning. They moved one truck from their North Lake station to cover their headquarters’ response area while those resources were committed to the fire.

Batesburg-Leesville is the only department in the Midlands that has a “Super Fan” for removing smoke from big structures. Batesburg-Leesville’s is built on a trailer that pulls behind a pickup truck, has a V-8 engine, and an airplane propeller that moves a tremendous amount of air to eject smoke from a building. It has been used by Columbia at another Wal-Mart fire on Bush River Road and other buildings before.

The Columbia Fire Department is now saying the fire started in one of the aisles. Store security is working with fire marshals and law enforcement to see if they can identify how it began. The fire at the Wal-Mart on Bush River Road several years ago was intentionally set. It sounds as if the store may be closed for a time while the smoke and water is cleaned up.

A Wal-Mart Super Center would be equipped with an automatic sprinkler system that could help control the fire before the firefighters arrive. There are rarely raging fires in fully sprinkled buildings when those are working properly at the time of the fire. These systems are often misunderstood. In an actual fire, the heads closest to the fire reach a temperature that sets those sprinklers off. Once they begin flowing, the firefighters come in and completely put the fire out. Then, the heads that activated can be blocked off to stop the water. This minimizes damage in parts of a building where there was no fire. In a building the size of a Wal-Mart, it’s possible the affected area could be closed off and cleaned up while the remainder of the store is in operation. In the case of today's fire, it sounds as if the smoke and water may have done enough damage to interrupt its normal opeartions.

Some Irmo Fire District equipment was leaving the scene around 5:15 a.m. Tuesday. The fan and crew from Batesburg-Leesville and the rest of Irmo's resources were still on the scene after 6:20 a.m. presumably removing the remaining smoke.

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