Company representatives couldn't say Monday afternoon how long the Walmart Supercenter near Covington will remain closed following an arson fire Sunday night that was set while a couple hundred shoppers and employees were inside the big box store.
The store was evacuated after the fire was reported at around 8:15 p.m. No one was injured, local and state fire authorities said.
The blaze, which started in the automotive department, was intentionally set, authorities said.
"We have video of people of interest," said Ollie Brumfield, chief of prevention for St. Tammany's 12th Fire District, which responded to the fire at the busy store on U.S. 190 just north of Interstate 12.
The state Fire Marshal's Office said the fire "consumed an aisle of products in the automotive section."
Authorities, meanwhile, are seeking information on two possible suspects who were seen leaving the parking lot in an SUV.
Brumfield said the store could remain closed for the next few weeks due to heavy smoke and water damage.
In an email Monday afternoon, a Walmart corporate representative said the company is working to get the store reopened as quickly as possible but did not offer a timeframe.
"In the meantime, we are working with our Neighborhood Markets at 2800 North Hwy 190 in Covington and 3009 East Causeway Approach in Mandeville to temporarily manage our customers’ shopping and prescription needs," company representative Kelsey Bohl wrote.
Brumfield said the fire district's entire shift of 15 firefighters responded. But by the time firefighters arrived, he said, the store's sprinkler system had largely snuffed the blaze.
In a news release on its Facebook page, the Fire Marshal's Office said it is seeking two unidentified males in connection with the fire. A photo the Fire Marshal's Office provided shows two young-looking males in one of the store's aisles.
A State Fire Marshal's Office spokesperson said authorities wouldn't comment on how the fire was started.
The suspects were seen leaving the store’s parking lot in what appeared to be a dark-colored, small model SUV headed north on U.S. 190, the Fire Marshal's Office said.
The Fire Marshal said anyone with information should call the Arson Hotline at 1-844-954-1221 or share the information through our online tip form found at lasfm.org.