Around 1,000 employees were inside a Walmart Fulfillment Center in Plainfield, near Indianapolis, Wednesday afternoon when a fire broke out.
Crews battled the blaze as the fire sent large plumes of smoke into the air, visible from miles away.
By Friday, Plainfield Fire Territory Fire Chief Brent Anderson said the fire was out, although crews moving debris are still suppressing hot spots.
“We are working our 50th hour since this event started at about noon on Wednesday,” Anderson said.
Where is the Walmart Fulfillment Center?
The Walmart fulfillment center is in Plainfield Indiana, about 30 minutes west of downtown Indianapolis. The warehouse is located at 9590 Allpoints Parkway.
A second Walmart Fulfillment Center is located next to one that caught fire. The second building closed Wednesday and remained closed Thursday due to its proximity to the burning building.
How big was the Walmart fulfillment center in Plainfield Indiana?
The facility that caught fire is about 1.2 million square feet, about the size of 20 football fields. Fire crews had the fire contained to the first Walmart fulfillment Center building, officials said.
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How many firefighters responded to the Walmart facility fire in Plainfield?
About 350 firefighters and 30 fire agencies, as well as other community partners, assisted in fighting the blaze at the 1.2-million-square-foot facility.
At the height of the fire, there were 23 engines and 13 ladders operating, according to a Facebook post from Plainfield Fire Territory.
In total, 28 engines, 25 ladders, 9 medics and 12 tankers have responded to the fire as of Friday, March 18. Some of the units responded multiple times as crews were rotated out on shifts, according to officials.
What caused the Walmart fulfillment center fire?
Officials have not confirmed what started the massive fire Wednesday afternoon. About 24 fire departments assisted the Plainfield Fire Territory in fighting the blaze, including the Indianapolis Fire Department.
"Everything was working appropriately, but this has such a heavy fire load that it overtook our crews and our ability to extinguish that fire safely," Plainfield Fire Chief Brent Anderson said. "It sounds like there was lots of clothing in the area where the fire started, wrapped in plastic and such."
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is leading agency in investigating the cause of the fire, which could take weeks, Anderson said.
"ATF is doing some interviews with some employees that were on site and in the area of the fire," Anderson said Wednesday. "Right now we have no idea what may have started this (and) no reason to believe it's suspicious or anything. We will do our due diligence over the next coming days or weeks to figure that out."
Crews from the fire department were doing training nearby when the fire broke out and were on the scene within three minutes of being notified, he said.
"This doesn't happen every day, but we train for it to happen every day," Anderson said. We were well prepared."
Federal investigators arrived on Friday to begin on-scene investigation into the cause of the fire.
Was anyone injured in the Plainfield Walmart fulfillment center fire?
One firefighter suffered minor injuries while fighting the fire Wednesday, but was treated and released back to the scene, Plainfield Fire Chief Brent Anderson said.
The building's fire system is what allowed all of the approximately 1,000 employees inside to evacuate the building safely, he said. No other injuries have been reported as of Thursday morning.
What was inside Plainfield's Walmart Fulfillment Center warehouse?
Mario Cruz, who has worked in the stocking department for three years at the fulfillment center, said they stocked everything from clothing to food to electronics and that there is always a lot of cardboard inside.
What will happen to fulfillment employees?
Walmart reopened one of its fulfillment centers, which they call IND2, Monday after a fire burned down a second fulfillment center located on the same site, company spokesman Charles Crowson said in an email.
The company said it's extending disaster benefits to employees displaced by the fire.
Last week, Walmart said those affected will be placed in temporary jobs.
The Walmart facilities were off limits to the public after the fire and employees could not retrieve vehicles or other property at the site.
Deputy Chief Joe Aldridge of the Plainfield Police Department said Wednesday it would be quite some time before the scene is released and employees can retrieve property.
Arianna Wityshyn worked at the Walmart fulfillment center for about three weeks before the fire began. The situation will be stressful for many employees of the fulfillment center, Wityshyn said.
"It's near the end of the month and bills are starting to stack up," Wityshyn said. "I know a lot of people who work there live paycheck to paycheck so not knowing what's coming next is a little worrisome."
How will online shopping be impacted by the fire at the Walmart Fulfillment Center?
Walmart expects no delays or disruptions to its online shoppers despite the shutdown of two Plainfield fulfillment centers after a fire burned one of the centers yesterday.
"We're going to rely on the resilience of our supply chain network and calling on other fulfillment centers and stores to fulfill orders," company spokesperson Charles Crowson told the IndyStar. "Our customers shouldn't know any difference."
While Walmart has a strong supply chain network that's set up to recover from accidents, some shoppers may see slight delays or items listed as out of stock in the coming weeks, said Amrou Awaysheh, a supply chain expert at Indiana University Kelley School of Business.
How far away could smoke from the fulfillment center fire be seen?
Smoke from the Plainfield Walmart fulfillment center fire could be seen on satellite imagery as the fire grew, according to the National Weather Service.
The National Weather Service tweeted out a short video of the satellite imagery showing the smoke.
— NWS Indianapolis (@NWSIndianapolis) March 16, 2022
Did the Walmart fire create health and environmental hazards?
The fire triggered serious concerns about air quality and toxic debris. In response, state and environmental officials have set up a monitoring network to measure both air and water impacts, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced at a Friday afternoon press conference.
The network is focused on the areas downwind from the facility where impacts would be the greatest, said Jim Mitchell with EPA. The fire began around noon Wednesday at the facility in Plainfield, about 15 miles west of downtown Indianapolis.
The EPA and Indiana Department of Environmental Management are actively monitoring the air to determine the chemicals that may be present in the smoke, Mitchell added, but at this time the main concern is fine particulate matter. There are no concerns identified with other compounds at this time, according to the EPA.
Exposure to high levels of particulate matter could cause health problems for certain individuals, including young children, the elderly or those with cardiovascular conditions such as asthma.
IDEM issued an Air Quality Action Day for Central Indiana — including Boone, Hamilton, Hendricks and Marion counties — Thursday afternoon. Such days are issued when ozone or particulate matter in the air rises above certain levels and may become unhealthy. The advisory has since expired.
For more on the environmental and health impacts of the fire, click here.
How does the fire compare to other historic Central Indiana fires?
Plainfield Fire Chief Brent Anderson said Thursday that the fire at the Walmart fulfillment center was the biggest he'd seen in his 20-year career.
Other notable fires in the area include one that took place on St. Patrick's Day in 1890.
Fire breaks out in Brownsburg
A building being constructed on farmland in Hendricks County caught fire Friday afternoon, less than 10 miles away from the Walmart fulfillment center.
The building, at Ronald Reagan Parkway and Connector Street just south of Interstate 74, has no known or announced tenants, said Danny Brock, health and safety officer and public information officer for the Brownsburg Fire Territory.
Brock said it is highly unlikely the two incidences are connected.
"It's highly unlikely that this incident is related to the incident that happened Wednesday," he said. "This was a construction site where the construction materials caught on fire due to the action of the contractors."
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: What to know about Plainfield, IN, Walmart fire: Fire Cause, injuries