This is one of those stories that Home Depot doesn’t like to talk about. The fact that Home Depot is a warehouse repository of hazardous, flammable materials, is not something they put on posters. The fact remains, several Home Depots have had serious fires, and the accident at their store in Elk River, Minnesota recently is worth noting — especially if your neighborhood is confronted with a home improvement big box. On May 23rd, the Star News in Elk River reported an electrical fire at The Home Depot. An electrical panel in the store reportedly exploded at about 6:15 p.m., “sending the store into darkness and starting a fire that filled the store with smoke.” Four fire departments responded to the fire, which put both Elk River and Big Lake’s ladder trucks to use, the newspaper reported. All the Elk River Fire Chief could say was, “This is the first time in my 27 years I’ve seen an electrical panel explode like that.” There were reportedly four explosions heard, and electrical wires caught on fire, “filling the entire store in thick, black smoke.” Home Depot employees evacuated the store. “We got everyone out of the store safely,” Home Depot’s Assistant Manager told the Star News. “Nobody was hurt, no employees and no customers. That’s the important thing.” The sprinkler system left as much as 3 inches of standing water in the store. “The biggest issue for us was to ventilate that huge building,” fire officials said. “Pretty much the entire building was full of smoke.” Two ladder trucks were used to check the roof for “hot spots.” The fire spread into the ceiling of the store. All damaged merchandise was shipped out of the store the next day.
The fires at Home Depot have been investigated by the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA). Sprawl-Busters has copies of those reports, which say that big box stores like Home Depot present special challenges to fire fighters because of their contents, and their “sky shelving” that turns the store into a warehouse over your head. Some communities require Home Depot to file a hazardous materials plan so that firefighters know what they are up against. In one fire in Quincy, Massachusetts, Home Depot had only a matter of seconds to clear the store of customers fleeing the hazardous smoke. ‘Toxic Cloud Rolls Through Neighborhood” was the headline in the Patriot Ledger. A special hazmat team had to battle the blaze, and were decontaminated at the local hospital. When considering the location for a Home Depot store, nearby residents should bring up the issue of fires at Home Depot. For reports on this subject, email [email protected]