More than a dozen big-box stores, including big-name retailers such as Lowe's and Walmart, have been slapped with Brookhaven Town fire code violations for blocking shopping aisles and exits with merchandise and improperly storing fire extinguishers and propane tanks, officials said.
Town officials said 19 big-box stores received a total of 22 summonses and 21 violations for the safety hazards during an inspection blitz that preceded the Labor Day weekend.
Each summons is a misdemeanor that carries a fine of up to $10,000, town officials said in a Sept. 6 news release. Store managers also face up to 6 months in jail.
Brookhaven officials said they launched the crackdown to ensure the safety of shoppers and employees.
"A blocked aisle or exit could mean the difference between life and death during a fire or an emergency," Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said in a statement in the same release. "We will not tolerate any violation of our fire codes, and I commend our fire marshals for the important work that they do to keep people safe during the holidays and throughout the year."
The stores were A.C. Moore in Selden; BJ's Wholesale Club in Bellport and Setauket; Best Buy in Patchogue and Setauket; Big Lots in Centereach; Dick's Sporting Goods in Patchogue; Home Depot in Mastic and Patchogue; Kohl's in Rocky Point, Setauket and Shirley; Lowe's Home Improvement in Medford, Patchogue and Stony Brook; Modell's Sporting Goods in Rocky Point; Sam's Club in Medford; Target in Selden; and Walmart in East Setauket.
"We take safety very seriously and these issues were addressed immediately," Home Depot spokeswoman Margaret Smith wrote in an email.
Representatives for the other stores did not return messages or could not be reached for comment.
Brookhaven officials said town fire marshals fanned out on Aug. 30, at the start of the Labor Day weekend, to conduct surprise inspections of 39 big-box stores. Marshals found no violations at 20 of the stores, officials said.
At the other stores, marshals found merchandise blocking store aisles, improperly stored fire extinguishers, propane tanks stored inside rather than outside shopping areas, and fire alarm violations. The Kohl's store in Setauket had stock blocking the closure of fire doors, town officials said.
"Our number one priority are the shoppers and employees who expect to be safe and able to exit the store in the event of an emergency," Brookhaven chief fire marshal Christopher Mehrman said in a statement. "Ensuring aisle widths are maintained and exits are not blocked by merchandise are just some of the things we are looking at. The town has a zero-tolerance approach to these violations."
The stores are due to appear on Nov. 14 in Sixth District Court in Patchogue, town officials said.