Arson suspect sought following Walmart fire

NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — Police are on the lookout for a suspect accused of starting a fire inside a Walmart store in Newport.

According to fire officials, the flames started in the store on J.T. Connell Highway just before 6 p.m. Monday. When crews arrived, they found paper products in the toiletries aisle on fire.

The store was evacuated and no injuries were reported.

Police describe the suspect as a black male standing 5’6″ to 5’7″ and about 45 years of age. They said he tried to start two fires, but only one caught.

A $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest. Anyone with information is asked to call (401) 462-4242. Sgt Christopher Hayes with the Newport Police Department said they have several leads in the case.

“As of this hour they’re following up on several leads in respect to a potential suspect. They are interviewing witnesses and are in the process of going over some surveillance video,” he said.

The store’s sprinkler system activated, which helped knock down the flames.

The fire was quickly extinguished but smoke, steam, and water were left throughout the store. Newport Fire Chief Peter Connerton says the damage inside is extensive.

“You’ve got clothes in there, a lot of products, I’m not an expert or a health inspector or anything but I would imagine anything that’s been exposed to the smoke probably won’t be able to be sold,” he said.

An eyewitness posted a video on YouTube of the flames inside the store:

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