FAIRFIELD — An arson fire caused several CO2 cartridges to rupture early Monday morning at the Walmart on North Texas Street. The incident spurred an evacuation of the store where a smash-and-grab robbery may have followed the fire.
Police were called at 3:24 a.m. after employees and customers heard a loud bang and witnessed smoke and a smoldering fire, said Sgt. Troy Oviatt of the Fairfield Police Department. The Fire Department was dispatched a couple of minutes later.
Someone set a fire that burned through a wicker basket and caused the cartridges to rupture. No one was hurt in the fire or during the evacuation, police said.
“We’re investigating it as an arson,” Oviatt said. ”We want to try to identify that guy,” he added of the suspect, whose image was caught on surveillance video.
Oviatt would not comment directly on the possible “smash-and-grab” during the fire but said Tuesday that “there was a theft that occurred somewhere around the same time.” Oviatt was not on scene during the incident.
Fire Department Battalion Chief Bobby Silva, who responded to the incident, said the scenario was “kind of weird” and “a first” for him.
The wicker trash basket was allegedly placed in an aisle near the electronics and set on fire, Silva said. When the cartridges became hot enough, an unspecified number “depressurized and exploded,” he said.
“I’m pretty sure in a closed atmosphere . . . it’s going to be quite loud and quite scary,” Silva said. ”It sounds like they (then) used a hammer and smashed electronics that were behind lock and key and then they ran out of the store while everyone was panicking.”
Silva said that this was the scenario , through witnesses, including the store manager, and evidence that they pieced together, but more definitive information would come from police and the surveillance video. He didn’t know what was taken or how many suspects were involved.
Oviatt declined comment on the specifics of the crime.
“We don’t have all the pieces to draw a conclusion . . . ,” he said.
Ryan McCarthy contributed to this report. Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.