Athens Walmart Reopens Following Fire Cleanup

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Athens' Walmart store has reopened following a fire that closed the supercenter on Tuesday.

Cleanup crews and associates worked most of the day removing damaged items and cleaning up from the fire.

A reward of up to $5,000 is being offered for information leading to the identification of the person or persons who set a fire in Walmart Tuesday morning.

The State Fire Marshal made the announcement of the reward from the Blue Ribbon Arson Committee early Tuesday evening.

In a release to the media Michael Duchesne of the State Fire Marshal's office asked for the public's help in finding the culprit.

When the fire closed the city's largest retailer, it was uncertain whether the store would reopen in time for the year's busiest shopping day on Friday.

The store was open for business Wednesday but a person who answered the phone was unwilling to tell when the store opened saying only that "we're open now."

The fire was deliberately set at about 2:30 AM Tuesday morning by someone using an accelerant to ignite products in the paper towel area of the store.

Walmart supplied surveillance video to Athens Police who were working the case.

Athens Police had not provided information or video to the media by late Tuesday afternoon.

A fast-thinking Walmart employee is reported to have extinguished the initial blaze and Athens firefighters contained the rest of it with minimal fire damage and no injuries, but a strong smell of smoke pervaded the store and presumably some of the products.

Employees of Walmart, called associates by the company, and a commercial cleanup company were called in to strip produce and other products from the shelves that might have been damaged by the smoke.

Kayla Whaling of Walmart said none of the associates lost hours as a result of the store's closure. 

She said they worked "very hard" with both APD and the Athens County Health Department to open the store as soon as possible.

The State Fire Marshal's office asks those with information to call either Michael Duchesne at 614-752-7179 or APD Lt. Jeff McCall at 740-592-3315.