Wal-Mart Realty has more than 24,000,000 square feet of empty stores on the market today. Sometimes these huge “dark stores” as Wal-Mart calls them, remain vacant for years. Some towns have had to tear them down at taxpayer expense. But the small town of Wood River, Illinois came up with a novel use for their dead Wal-Mart. This week area firefighters were allowed to cut and hack their way through the vacant store, as a training exercise. 26 fire departments converged on the building to use “real-life techniques in a controlled atmosphere,” according to the Telegraph newspaper. The Wal-Mart discount store is slated to be demolished tomorrow. But over the weekend, the store was used to test concrete saws, to disable a sprinkler system, and other training experiences. The training also included large-volume water flow, which tested ladder and pumper trucks.
Perhaps the Wood River experience will encourage Wal-Mart to use its other 300 or more dark stores for more fire-fighting training. Or better yet, the company could stop the aggressive closures of its discount stores, which are being phased out to build even larger superstores. It amounts to the largest systematic closing of retail stores in the history of America, a colossal waste of land and buildings — with little productive to show for it… except training fire-fighters on how to use concrete saws. Wal-Mart’s creation of so many dead stores is one of the anti-environmental policies of the company that single it out as a major detriment to sound land use planning and environmental stewardship. For similar stories of wasteful developments, search Newsflash by “dark stores.”