It’s been a week since the devastating fire at the Geneva Walmart.
Reports indicate that the fire may have been started in the craft section of the store, but beyond an arson charge – which was confirmed by Sheriff Kevin Henderson earlier this week – little information has been publicized about the investigation.
What has been publicized is the struggle that local residents have experienced maintaining access to affordable, fresh food.
It’s an issue that Geneva has battled with since the closure of Tops supermarket near Wegmans. Earlier this month, BJ’s announced its pending closure.
Store employees say they’re working to stock shelves so that Walmart can reopen fully. The grocery store is open at this time, and so are two other affiliated businesses that operate out of Walmart.
The bank and salon announced full-reopening on Tuesday. The remainder of the Walmart store remains closed though.
– Check out FingerLakes1.com Reporter Gabriel Pietrorazio’s in-depth feature on food access and scarcity in Geneva; and what’s being done about it.
– Below this section is a photo gallery, submitted to FingerLakes1.com by a reader.
– Scroll down for the latest on the criminal investigation.
FingerLakes1.com will continue to update this story as new information is made available.
Photos below taken on Tuesday by Jack Kidd:
Juvenile charged with second-degree arson after Walmart fire
Investigators with the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office have ruled the fire at the Geneva Walmart last week an arson.
Sheriff Henderson reports that a juvenile has been charged with second-degree arson. He says that case involving the suspect, who was not identified, has been turned over to Ontario County Family Court.
He says the fire was put out by White Springs Fire Department with the assistance of West Lake, Geneva, and Stanley fire departments.
The fire was investigated by the Sheriff’s Office and Ontario County Fire Coordinators Office.
Sheriff Henderson says the damage to the building and inventory was significant.
No timeline for reopening store at this time in Geneva
Corporate officials with Walmart say that the Geneva location’s pharmacy has been reopened, despite the remainder of the store being closed after Wednesday’s fire.
“Although the store remains closed, we have great news! The pharmacy will be open Saturday January 25th at 9am. The pharmacy will maintain regular business hours. To get your prescriptions please enter the grocery side entrance and you will be escorted to the pharmacy,” the store said on Facebook.
Timing on reopening the remainder of the store has not been released. Emails to Walmart’s corporate media team did not respond to a request for comment.
UPDATE: Geneva Walmart says timeline for reopening will be announced on Facebook
White Springs Fire Chief Tim Higgins said the sprinkler system at the Geneva Walmart located on 5&20 acted like it was supposed to, as firefighters responded to a structure fire around 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
Customers inside said they saw flames approach the ceiling before the fire suppression system kicked on.
“For us, it was a major incident,” he told the Finger Lakes Times. “We responded in three to four minutes from the time of dispatch. It was pretty hard trying to respond in here with everybody leaving, trying to get our apparatus in here. We had everybody evacuate very quickly.”
Walmart’s corporate office was not clear on when the store would reopen, but noted that updates would be shared on social media.
Meanwhile, Higgins estimated that approximately 10% of the store suffered heavy smoke and fire damage. The fire was contained to the west end of the store.
“They will be closed for some time. It depends on code enforcement and the Department of Health,” Higgins added. “They are looking at a lot of cleanup inside.”
No one was hurt in the fire.
Geneva Walmart closes after fire; heavy damage reported inside store
– Original Report: Wednesday, 1 p.m.
The Walmart store located on 5&20 in Geneva was evacuated and shut down on Wednesday after a fire broke out around 12:30 p.m.
Witnesses reported seeing heavy smoke and flames inside the store. Video submitted to FingerLakes1.com confirmed those reports.
A second alarm was sounded by firefighters, which prompted additional response.
Shoppers described a chaotic scene as those inside the store moved quickly to exit. They applauded efforts by store staff to safely get those inside – out of the structure.
Scanner traffic indicated that the fire was contained to the upper-loft area of the store. However, enough damage was done to the store to shut it down for the remainder of the day.
Some employees said that the store could be closed beyond a day. There was significant water, smoke, and fire damage to different parts of the store.
It’s unclear at this time how much damage in total was done to the property due to the fire.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
Video below from Code35 Fire Photography:
Photos from the scene below by Courtney Herrington, Finger Lakes News Radio:
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