NOGALES, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Nogales Police Department is investigating a suspicious fire at a Walmart in Nogales.
According to a recent release the incident happened on Thursday, May 4, when NPD officers responded to a call around 10:45 p.m. about a possible fire at Walmart. When NPD and the Nogales Fire Department arrived on scene they found thick smoke inside the store near the garden and hardware department. They quickly moved several shoppers and employees from the store as a safety precaution.
Two quick thinking employees put the fire out, preventing an incident of a much larger scale, stated the release.
Store employees told NPD that a young boy was seen on surveillance cameras setting fire to store merchandise in the hardware and paints department with a lighter and then running away. According to the release a lighter was found at the scene where the fire began.
Officers located the boy, a 7-year-old, in the store parking lot with his mother. Employees identified him as the child seen on the surveillance video.
The mother told officers that she had been separated from her son for a few minutes and that he was not the one responsible for setting the fire. According to NPD she then told officers she was going to speak to an attorney and that the officers would not be able to speak to her son.
No arrests have been made, though charges of arson, criminal damage, and endangerment were referred to the local juvenile probation department and the Santa Cruz County Attorney's Office on the 7-year-old, according to the release.
Walmart remained closed the rest of Thursday night for clean up and to prevent the risk of smoke inhalation. There were no reported injuries to employees or shoppers.
Final figures for damages and losses are reportedly at $30,000 or higher, according to Walmart management.
The NPD release stated this was not the first fire reported at this Walmart. In a separate incident reported on March 14, the 7-year-old from the May 4 fire and his 11-year-old brother were suspected of setting fire to clothing around 11 p.m.
According to the release employees saw the two boys running from the clothing department where the fire began, and another witness reported they saw one of the boys with a lighter before they left the store.
In the March 14 incident, store surveillance also led police to the alleged suspects and the mother stated her children had nothing to do with the fire and she was consulting an attorney. In this case the mother also prevented the children from speaking with the police.
Charges of criminal damage were referred to the local juvenile probation department and the Santa Cruz County Attorney's Office on the two boys.
Walmart employees told the Nogales police that these were not the only fires to have been set at the store, according to the release, there were two previous incidents not reported to the police.