PLAINFIELD, Ind. — It has been one year since a massive fire tore through a Walmart distribution center in Plainfield. That fire burned for days and produced huge plumes of thick, black smoke that could be seen for miles.
There are no remnants of that fire left as a new warehouse is being constructed where the Walmart facility once stood.
What sparked that massive blaze remains a mystery. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) said today its investigation into the cause of the fire is still ongoing.
“It kind of looked like something you’d see in a movie,” Seth Brethauer said.
The 1.2 million square foot warehouse caught fire around noon on March 16, 2022. More than 400 firefighters from 30 departments were called in to help battle the flames.
Seth and Ellen Brethauer live in a neighborhood near the facility and had ash fall into their yard and that was just day one.
“It really smelled of smoke like a campfire on steroids is what i would describe it as — for weeks probably,” Ellen said.
In the past year, Walmart filed tort claims against the Plainfield Fire Territory and other departments saying they ordered the sprinkler systems be tuned off which made the fire worse.
Plainfield officials didn’t want to comment for this story.
“I was very upset and I was just hoping everyone was ok and I was glad about that,” said Mildred Parris who worked at the now destroyed facility.
Roughly a thousand employees were in the building at the time and all made it out safe.
Many were offered jobs at other Walmart facilities but the company said more than a thousand people didn’t accept a new position and filed a WARN notice with the state last year.
“They had a job fair and they let us pick, most people picked the stores or the Indy two over there,” Parris said.
For now, the community is just waiting to see what happens with the new facility and wondering if they’ll ever learn what caused the fire.
We reached out to Walmart today to get an update on how many employees were retained and how many were let go. We have yet to hear back.
It’s unclear what will occupy the new warehouse that’s being constructed.