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Orange Rural Fire Department

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Historic Mill Partially Destroyed
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By Member Chris Cardwell
May 21, 2016

A fire that destroyed part of an unoccupied historic mill in West Hillsborough today is contained, and emergency personnel are continuing to work through the night.

Orange Rural Fire Department was dispatched at 4:54 p.m. for the fire at the former Bellevue Manufacturing Company’s textile mill, located at 202 S. Nash St. The northernmost and oldest of four mill buildings was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived. Seven other departments responded, and the fire was contained by about 7:20 p.m. No other buildings were affected, and there have been no injuries.

Firefighters are continuing work to extinguish fire that remains under the roof, which collapsed at about 5:25 p.m. Through the night, they will work to extinguish hot spots and remove fallen debris as they are able. It likely will be Sunday before the area will have cooled enough to enter.

The State Bureau of Investigation as well as Hillsborough’s fire marshal and police detectives will investigate the cause of the fire, with assistance from Orange Rural Fire Department and the Orange County Fire Marshal Division. The investigation is expected to take several weeks because of the amount of debris that must be removed.

Fire hoses and the inward collapse of the building’s roof helped prevent the fire from spreading to other buildings, including an adjacent three-story section of the mill, said Orange Rural Fire Capt. Jeff Holden, who served as the operations captain for the incident.

“When we pulled up, I was pretty sure it was going to spread to the three-story section,” said Fire Capt. David Shaw, who served as incident commander. He noted that firefighters had difficulty in reaching the fire due to accessibility. They had to contend with overhead power lines at the front and northern sides of the building and a hill on the rear side that prevented them from getting firetrucks close to the building. Because the hydrants in the area are on the same water line grid, the department also asked the Hillsborough Water Treatment Plant to turn on pump stations to provide additional water pressure.

“It’s impressive to see these firefighters at work,” Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens said. “It’s clear that these mutual aid agreements we have are working.”

The following fire departments assisted in the response: Cedar Grove, Chapel Hill, Efland, Eno, Mebane, New Hope and Orange Grove. Also assisting were Orange County Emergency Services and the Orange County Fire Marshal Division. Hillsborough residents Megan Clode, Susan Fenwick and Denice Fisher used garden hoses to soak the fence line between the burning building and houses on Holt Street.

Orange County Sheriff’s Office helped provide traffic control with the Hillsborough Police Department, and South Orange Rescue Squad provided rehabilitation for emergency workers, ferrying water and food to them. Domino’s Pizza and Hillsborough BBQ Company provided food to the emergency workers, and Mystery Brewing Public House has offered beverages for firefighters when their shifts are completed.

The Bellevue mill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated by the Hillsborough Board of Commissioners as a local historic landmark. Its buildings date from the turn of the 20th century and the 1920s. The last occupant of the mill was Flynt Fabrics, which closed its Hillsborough operations in September 2000. The mill is slated to be transformed into apartments.

“It’s certainly a tragedy about the building, but it appears nobody was hurt and no other buildings are being affected,” the mayor said. “Thanks to the quick response, the fire did not spread to adjacent parts of the historic building. Job No. 1 is that people are safe.”

Mutual Aid: Efland, Cedar Grove, Eno, New Hope, Mebane, Chapel Hill Fire Depts.
Hyperlinks: Town of Hillsborough NC - Press Release
Mike Legeros photos


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