Saturday, February 13, 2010

Man accused of arson after allegedly burning potato chips at Pocomoke store

A Pocomoke City man is accused of arson after allegedly setting fire to bags of potato chips in Walmart, causing enough mayhem to close the store just as customers freed from snowdrifts were eager to shop.

Vincent V. Harmon, 20, was arrested Friday and charged with first-degree arson, malicious burning, reckless endangerment and malicious destruction of property. If found guilty of arson, Harmon could spend up to 30 years in prison and owe a $50,000 fine.

The Pocomoke City Supercenter is closed until further notice, said Walmart spokeswoman Ashley Hardie. The store is the only full-service supermarket in southern Worcester County.

"We are working with the Pocomoke City Fire Department and the Worcester County Health Department. We will clean the store, make sure it is safe for our customers and associates and reopen when it is safe to do so," Hardie said. "We are still assessing the damage."

Just before 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Harmon allegedly set fire to bags of potato chips and left the store, according to Deputy Fire Marshal Rob Korb. Walmart employees doused the flames with nine fire extinguishers. Four fire departments responded to the scene to put out the blaze.

"Potato chips are greasy, and grease fires are hard to get under control," Korb said. "The problem is the powder (from the extinguishers) has spread throughout the store."

Much of the boxed food and fresh produce in the supermarket will have to be disposed of, said Ed Potetz, director of Environmental Health for the Worcester County Health Department, since it has been contaminated by fire extinguisher dust. The substance, which contains ammonium phosphates and clay dust, presents a low health hazard but can be an irritant. Canned and jarred food could be salvaged but would need to be cleaned before returning to the sales floor. Frozen food should be relatively unaffected, Potetz said.

"They are going to be sealing the section off where the contaminant landed," he said. "There is no way there could be any leaking into the other side of the sales floor."

However, some items, especially baby clothes and toys located near the food section, will likely be destroyed.

"They are doing what they can to be ultrasafe," Potetz said. "They are going to be more than cautious. The baby stuff, they are going to be discarding -- they aren't going to be taking any chances. You never know how something is going to react with a child."

The Pocomoke City Walmart Supercenter was renovated last fall, its second facelift since opening in 1997.



Anonymous said...

Potato chips may be greasy but I didn't know they were flammable. What type of fire started all of this to make all those chips burn?

Anonymous said...

It's good to hear the suspect was caught, now lock him up and throw away the key. He obviously has no regard for human life by trying to start a fire in a store full of people! Next thing you know his relatives will be on TV trying to say what a wonderful person he is! Oh I just can't wait to hear it!

Anonymous said...

All I can say about this is everyone makes mistakes and unless "Anonymous" or anyone else has NOT COMMITTED ONE SIN in his/her life to CAST THE FIRST STONE............ Case and point!! God Bless You.

jmmb said...

Anon 11:33 am...
Yes, everyone makes mistakes but we aren't talking about running a stop sign here. We're talking about arson, which in case you didn't know, is a very serious CRIME. I suppose in your infinite wisdom you are going to try to convince people that this arson attempt on Walmart was a mistake?

Well, you tell that to the people that work at Walmart who probably lost wages for a few days. You try telling that to the people shopping in Walmart the night this took place. And while you're at it you try to convince the fireman of the Pocomoke fire dept. and the Virginia fire depts. that were called. You tell their families, that they had to leave on that cold, icy night that this was a mistake.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:33am, You are kidding, right? As jmmb stated above, this isn't something as simple as a minor traffic violation.
Quit making excuses for low life screwballs like this Harmon character. I say lock him up and throw away the key as he obviously has a screw loose and is a danger to society.
The excuse makers, like yourself, are a major part of the problem with todays youth.