Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Walmart worker: 'It was scary'

About 50 employees escaped Sunday morning fire

Wilson Alegria was stocking Walmart's frozen food section when the commotion began around him about 3:30 a.m. Sunday. "All the fire alarms went off, everyone started running toward the exit screaming 'Fire!'" he said.

"It was scary. You could tell all the other employees were pretty shocked."

Alegria said he was one of about 50 Walmart employees working the overnight shift when the fire broke out, likely in the automotive section on the store's south side.

The building was ablaze when emergency responders arrived, according to a news release from Clovis police.

Police said all the Walmart employees had been accounted for and no injuries had been reported. But the building sustained "significant loss including roof collapse," Clovis Mayor Mike Morris said.

The store was immediately closed and officials said it will remain closed until fire investigators can record the damage. It wasn't immediately clear how long the store might be closed but Clovis Walmart officials were directing customers to the Portales Walmart location.

Alegria, who said he recently graduated from Clovis High School, said Sunday afternoon he still didn't know much about what happened.

"Just a big fire in the left corner," he said.

"I saw two workers running toward the exit and my manager ran straight to the fire, then he came back with a couple of people.

"The team leaders and the managers did an absolutely great job helping everybody get out and making sure everybody got out."

After exiting the store, employees gathered in the parking lot where Alegria and others took photos and shot video of the blaze.

He said no one was allowed back in the store after firefighters arrived and he doesn't know the extent of the damage.

No customers were in the store when the fire started, Alegria said. The store closes at 11 p.m. and reopens at 6 a.m. His shift is 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., stocking mostly cleaning supplies and frozen food.

"I just started," he said. "I've been there about a week and a day. This was just crazy."

Alegria said he believes he will be temporarily transferred to the Portales Walmart. About 400 people work at Clovis' Walmart, according to the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce.

Officials did not immediately speculate on the cause of the fire.

The state fire marshal was contacted to investigate. Firefighters from throughout the region were called to the scene. The fire appeared to be out by mid-morning but burned more than three hours.

Clovis Police Department on Sunday morning asked area residents "stay away from the area, as this is an active scene."

"There is no good reason to drive by to 'see' what is happening," CPD reported on its Facebook page.

"If this is your primary store for groceries, make other plans. The store WILL NOT be re-opening today."

Bryan Mizelle, who lives close to Walmart off Llano Estacado, said he heard sirens early Sunday morning and could hear what sounded like rain hitting sheet metal.

When he went outside, he said he could see flames.

Jennifer Mizelle, Bryan's wife, said she took her sons to Planet Fitness just west of Prince Street, and from there they could see the fire at Walmart and could hear multiple "pops" from the scene.

A Melrose Fire Department vehicle drove past, she said.

Jennifer Mizelle said a Walmart employee she knows told her she was in the store when the fire started in Walmart's automotive section.

Police said the fire was reported at 3:36 a.m. Sunday.

"Due to the size of the building and the aggressive nature of the fire, additional fire units from surrounding agencies were requested to assist the Clovis Fire Department," a police news release stated. "Fire services from Cannon Air Force Base, Melrose, Ranchvale, Pleasant Hill, Texico, Portales, Grady, (New Mexico) along with Farwell and Bovina (Texas) responded to assist."

Also from the news release:

"If you have prescription medications that typically are served through the Walmart pharmacy, Walmart has been and will be attempting to contact you via text and email to guide you to the Portales Walmart. Online orders and pickup for the Clovis Walmart will be redirected to the Portales Walmart. Any other questions for Walmart may be fielded by contacting them at 1-800-WALMART."