Wal-Mart neighbors, take note: You may not think of stores like Wal-Mart and Home Depot as repositories of hazardous materials, but that’s exactly what they are. Residents fighting Wal-Mart should make clear that these giant stores present giant threats to residential properties nearby. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania this week, Wal-Mart was swimming in hazardous material. One of their stores had to be evacuated following a inside-store spill of chemicals used to treat swimming pools. The chemicals were being stored on pallets, because Wal-Mart is its own warehouse. According to the Nashoba Democrat neewspaper, chemical vapors in the receiving area of the store were mixing with one another and creating a heat source, which caused small fires on the pallet. Once firefighters got to the pallet, they brought it outside and separate all the boxes to keep the chemicals from interacting, and to let the vapors disperse into the air. But vapors from the spill were detected inside the store’s shopping area. The vapors had to be vented outside the building. A hazardous material team from Wal-Mart was sent to the store, as well as officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Quality. One of the store managers refused to comment on the spill, saying corporate officials would release a statement at a later time. Fire departments and EMS teams from Philadephia, Choctaw and Newton county all had to go to the store. No official cost of this public response was released.
Pool chemicals mixing with other materials have been responsible for other fires at big box stores, including Home Depot and Lowe’s. Nobody likes to think about what would happen if these stores went up in flames, but fire officials have warned that because of the “sky shelving” construction at these stores, they present unique challenges to firefighters. At one Home Depot fire in Massachusetts, toxic smoke rolled through the neighborhood. A reminder once again, that massive retail stores with a major inventory of hazardous materials, are not a good neighbor to a residential zone, and proximity to homes should be avoided at all costs. For more background on fires at big box stores, contact [email protected]