“Just seeing the fire coming out of the roof of Walmart is enough to kind of make you go, ‘okay, this is going to take a long time to go through everything.’ And right now we’re on day three and we’re still going through things,” said Craigmile. In her nearly two years with Clovis Fire, this is one of the biggest fires she’s seen. “We’re talking a fire that is high heat and extremely low visibility.”
The fire broke out on the far end of Walmart near the automotive and gardening areas. “Right off the bat our firefighters are concerned about the heavy fire load and flammable material in that section when the fire is so hot,” Craigmile said.
A total of 10 departments from New Mexico and Texas responded to put out the flames. Craigmile said the fire was mostly knocked down within a few hours. “This one was unusual, I will say because the Walmart here in Clovis is well-loved,” she said.
Even though no one was hurt, the store’s temporary closure is expected to take a big toll on the community. People who rely on Walmart for groceries and prescriptions have to drive to Portales. “They all come here for groceries so if we’re missing our biggest grocery store, one of our biggest grocery stores, it becomes problematic,” said Krista Pietsch, the public information coordinator for the nonprofit Eastern New New Mexico Rising.
The fire department was looking for a new system to help them with pre-fire plans. Including protocol for employees in case of fire, and technology to help fire crews approach it. That brought fire officials to this Walmart just days before the flames. “We actually used Walmart as part of the pilot program and just a few days before two of our chief officers went to do a pre-fire plan on Walmart. That was not planned, we obviously had no idea,” Craigmile said. “Unfortunately, we hadn’t bought the software, the app system yet because the crews really (would have) appreciated having that pre-fire plan.”
The State Fire Marshal is investigating. No word yet on what caused the fire or when Walmart will reopen.