NEW INFORMATION: Partial roof collapse at Eau Claire Kmart

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. -- EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Winter may have taken its toll on the Eau Claire K-Mart. Around 6:45 p.m. on Thursday night, the Eau Claire Fire Department got a call about a partial roof collapse at the store.

The size of it is about 75x75 feet. Employees and customers were evacuated from the building.

Once firefighters were on scene, they say there was also concern about a gas leak.

"We did have a gas leak, we also had a water leak," said Chris Bell, a Deputy Fire Chief with the Eau Claire Fire Department. "We called Xcel and they are busy also. Our initial units arrived on scene and we were able to get the gas shut off and the power shut off after a strong smell of gas from inside the building.

Firefighters determined there was not enough gas released to pose a danger.

"Upon entry all gas levels were below the explosive limit, so by my estimation we never did have the potential for an explosion," he added.

The nearby Mega Holiday gas station was also closed down to help reduce traffic in the area. As for damage, we know there is damage to merchandise in the southeast corner of the store. Bell says there is also structural damage to the building. The extent though is not yet known.

"At this time we're worried about heat loss, getting this building back up and running with heat and water so we don't have any further damage from the cold," he added.

He says unlike homes, buildings like this always have the potential for roof problems during heavy snow.

"The long expanses without interior walls - grocery stores, buildings like this always have that potential," he said.

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(WEAU) Eau Claire Fire crews are releasing more information on a partial roof collapse at the Kmart on E. Clairemont Ave. in Eau Claire.
They say the opening in the roof is 75 ft by 75 ft, and is located on the southeast corner of the building near the garden department.
There is water damage to the building and to the merchandise inside it.
Everyone inside was evacuated safely when the collapse happened at 6:45pm Thursday.
Gas lines have been shut off because of a leak.
Fire officials say collapses like this are common for businesses which often have flat roofs where snow piles up easily.
There is no word on when the store will re-open.

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EARLIER STORY: Police and fire crews are investigating a partial roof collapse at the Kmart on E. Clairemont Ave. in Eau Claire.
WEAU crews on the scene say no one was injured.
Fire crews moved people out of the Kmart and a nearby Mega Holiday service station because of a gas leak. The gas has been shut off.
Entrances to the Kmart parking lot were blocked by police.
No word yet on damage estimates to the store.
WEAU will continue following this story through the evening, we'll bring you the latest here on WEAU.com and on WEAU 13 News following the Olympics.


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