Damage Estimated At More Than $1 MillionBy John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A 13-year-old boy faces arson charges after police say he started a fire inside the Hutchinson Walmart.

Police and firefighters were called to the store Sunday afternoon because someone had started a fire in the men’s clothing department.

They put it out, but say the fire and smoke did extensive damage to the store.

“I heard all the sirens and thought what’s going on? My mother-in-law tells me the Walmart is on fire,” Samantha Franco said.

Franco estimates she visits the Hutchinson Walmart once a day to get groceries and necessities for her family. But on Monday, instead of seeing a greeter at the front door she was greeted by police tape and a sign, all thanks to a fire allegedly started by a teenager.

“I was shocked. I didn’t know until my mother-in-law told me. Thirteen? Wow,” Franco said.

Police said the teenager and another 13-year-old boy walked into the store together. But they don’t believe the suspect had any plans to shop.

“He went to one end of the store and got the charcoal lighter fluid and then went to the other end of the store and started the fire,” Hutchinson Police Chief Tom Gifferson said.

Walmart employees evacuated customers while sprinklers worked to put out the flames. After the fire was out, a police officer who works at Hutchinson schools recognized the boys on surveillance video and they were taken into custody. One was let go but the boy accused of starting the fire faces arson charges.

“Very difficult to get into the mind of a 13-year-old boy but I believe the one who actually started the fire was just out to cause damage,” Gifferson said.

Damage that’s forced customers to find a new place to shop, at least for a few days.

“We come here every day. It kind of sucks. It did a lot of damage,” Franco said.

The State Fire Marshal estimates the damage to be between $1 million and $2 million. Officials said that while fire destroyed some merchandise, most of the damage was done by smoke.

An employee at the store Monday night said he’s hopeful they will re-open in a couple days.

John Lauritsen