Columbus Walmart temporarily evacuated after smoke

Customers at a Walmart store in Columbus were evacuated temporarily Saturday afternoon after a refrigerated display case began to spark and smoke.

At 1:04 p.m., Columbus Fire & Emergency Medical Services were called to the Whittlesey Boulevard store, which is within Columbus Park Crossing. Just moments before, sparks began to fly from a case that contained frozen breakfast items in Aisle 14, said Trina Gross, co-manager at Walmart.

Gross said there seems to have been an issue with the electrical wiring, but technicians had yet to determine the definitive cause. The electrical problem caused smoke to billow from the frozen food area, which is toward the back of the 180,000-square-foot store.

After a sales associate noticed the sparking, another employee quickly announced that all shoppers had to leave the store.

“We didn’t want anybody to get hurt or breathe anything in,” Gross said.

Two fire trucks and about 15 firefighters rushed to the scene. No one was injured. Customers had to abandon their shopping carts at the front of the store and evacuate.

The refrigerated systems were shut down, and around 1:45 p.m. associates were back in the store, removing frozen products from the cases and cleaning nearby aisles, which were covered with a thin layer of soot.

Outside, at least 100 customers and employees waited by the two entrances of the supercenter. Walmart shopper Julie Hutchins, 39, said she was almost out the door when an associate asked everyone to leave — without specifying a reason at first. She noticed people were slow to move until they were told there was smoke in the rear of the store.

“I was checking out,” the Columbus woman said as she waited on a bench. “I had all my stuff on the conveyor belt.”

Customers waited outside for about an hour before they were able to reenter the store around 2:10 p.m.