A TESCO Express store in Popley is currently closed following a major fire at the premises on Monday evening (March 15).

Employees have been sitting outside the store this week, informing customers of the closure.

From the outside, some smoke damage is visible, but the full extent is not clear, as the fire began at the rear of the store. 

The shop is a popular one. Staff regularly engage with customers through community Facebook groups, and say it’s one of the best-used branches in the area.

Therefore, many are eager to know when they will be able to return to shop in the store. 

Here’s what we know so far … 


What happened?


At 7.50pm on Monday evening (March 15), eight engines with approximately 30 firefighters from Basingstoke, Odiham, Tadley, Hartley Wintney, Alton, Kingsclere, Overton and Rushmoor scrambled to the scene of the fire at Tesco Express on Carpenter’s Down, Popley.

Lee Cordwell, station manager, told the Gazette: “On arrival we were faced with Tesco Express well alight. There were three members of staff and all were accounted for. The cause was not immediately clear and crews worked extremely hard to tackle the fire. We then discovered that it was a refrigeration unit at the rear of the premises.”


What caused it? 


The incident was caused by a freezer unit, but it is as yet unclear how it caught fire. 

Mr Cordwell said the fire service would be working with Tesco following the incident, adding: “There will now be an investigation to find the cause and to work with Tesco to ensure it doesn’t happen again or at any of their other branches."

Tesco confirmed that a “ full investigation into this incident” would now be carried out.


What happens next?


Mr Cordwell said there was “significant damage” to the store, but nearby businesses were unaffected.

The store is currently closed, and the cash machine outside is also not in use as electricity to the premises has been shut off. 

The store manager, who did not want to be named, told the Gazette that a security team would be on-site, and that he would soon be handing over to a “project team” who would assess the damage and estimate time-scale for repairs.

He added that an investigation would follow, but that all stock inside the store would have to be “written off” due to smoke contamination.


When will the store reopen?


Store employees told the Gazette that they were anticipating being moved to work temporarily at other Tesco stores while repairs are undertaken. 

They said their store is one of the most-used in the area and will be a loss to the community, so they hope it will be back up and running soon, but believe it will be “at least a few weeks”.

A Tesco spokesperson said it was too soon to give a date for reopening, adding: “We’re very sorry for any inconvenience for our customers.

"We’re working hard to reopen as quickly as possible for our customers although we expect to remain closed for a short period of time while repairs are carried out.”

They added that Tesco will keep the community updated when it knows more.