North Bay police, Ontario Fire Marshal investigating
North Bay police are seeking witnesses to Friday night’s ‘suspicious’ fire at Walmart at Northgate Shopping Centre.
Police confirmed in a media release late Saturday the fire is being jointly investigated by police from the criminal investigation unit and an investigator from the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office.
The fire, which led to damage from fire and water to the store’s contents estimated to be in the millions of dollars, ignited at around 9:30 pm in a clothing rack in the men’s wear department.
It grew quickly, with fire soon reaching toward the ceiling and smoke billowing through the store.
The fire was contained quickly while customers and employees were evacuated, reports North Bay Fire. There are no reports of injuries.
While the fire has not been labelled as arson, Fire Chief Jason Whiteley called it “very suspicious.
“It started in the clothing racks,” he said Saturday. “That doesn’t spontaneously combust.
“As you can imagine, all the clothing these days is made with synthetic materials,” which produces thick, toxic smoke.
The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit has been called in to determine if any of the food items can be salvaged, he said, while Walmart said it is working on a plan to support its pharmacy customers.
Whiteley would not speculate on whether Friday night’s fire is connected to three in October at Kitchener-Waterloo Walmart stores where two people have been charged.
The Ontario Fire Marshal estimated the cost of the three fires – set in the paper products section of the stores – to be more than $12 million. All three stores have reopened.
Adam Grachnik, director of corporate affairs for Walmart Canada, said Saturday the North Bay store “will reopen as soon as possible while we work with officials to ensure the store is safe and up to the standards our customers expect and deserve.”
Grachnik said Walmart “will absolutely support our associates while the store is closed,” and all “will be paid for their scheduled shifts.
North Bay’s Walmart employs about 300 people both full- and part-time.
North Bay police say investigators are eager to speak with potential witnesses to Friday night’s fire, as well as with anyone who may have video on their smart phone or vehicle dash cam. You can call the police service at 705-497-5555 and select option 9 to speak to an officer.
For those who wish to remain anonymous, contact Near North Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or by submitting a tip online at nearnorthcrimestoppers.com.