A sheriff’s deputy was already outside the store in Brooksville to control a possible rush of shoppers when he heard an explosion just after the Walmart opened at 5 a.m., Hernando County Sheriff’s Office said.
He found a tractor-trailer on fire, with the flames quickly spreading to two others either side, with a driver in one pulled to safety, the force said.
“As other deputies arrived on scene, they responded to the store to assist with evacuating the store, as the three tractor-trailers were parked very close to the building,” the department said in a Facebook post.
After the fire was extinguished, shoppers were finally allowed in at 8 a.m., three hours after the initial opening time, officials said in later posts.
It was not clear what caused the explosion, which is still being investigated, the sheriff’s office said.
“Fortunately, there were no injuries as a result of the explosion/fire,” the statement said.
It was not immediately clear how many shoppers had been trying to get into the store at the time — with many reports noting there was not the usual rush of bargain hunters this year amid the pandemic.
Black Friday is projected to generate $10 billion in online sales, a 39 percent bump from last year, according to Adobe Analytics, which measures sales at 80 of the top 100 US online retailers.
And Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, is expected to remain the biggest online shopping day of the year with $12.7 billion in sales, a 35 percent jump.
Meanwhile, other stores are ramping up curbside pickup options as a last grasp at sales before the year ends and they head into the dark days of winter with the pandemic still raging.
“Black Friday is still critical,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail. “No retailer wants it to be tarnished. It’s still vital to get their consumers spending and get consumers into the holiday mood.”