A fire in a vacant mill building in Lincoln went to six alarms before becoming contained Thursday evening.
Part of the building collapsed as the structure quickly became engulfed in flames at about 5:15 p.m.
Heavy flames were seen coming from the 115-year-old former textile mill, which is part of the Lonsdale Mills complex located on Carrington Street.
Within an hour, half of the massive structure was bright orange and covered in huge plumes of heavy smoke. Streams of water were pouring from sky-high ladder trucks as firefighters worked to bring the blaze under control.
Firefighters were trying to keep the flames from spreading in high winds, and they were taking water out of the Blackstone River.
Lonsdale Fire Chief Timothy Griffin told NBC 10, "The crews never went inside at first. When we pulled up, the flames were coming out of every window from one fire wall to the other."
As it turns out, the very last thing the storied, American Cord and Webbing Mill will be known for is this massive fire. The building is now called the Lincoln-Carrington building around town, and the chief says it's been vacant for years.
"Once it started going, our biggest concern was collapse, and keeping the firefighters out of the collapse zone which we were able to do, so the building did collapse," said Griffin.
Griffin said fire officials have worried that the old mill with its thick wooden beams and oil soaked floors would one day ignite and said they have been planning for such an occurrence for years and that preparation paid off.
"We've had this building pre-planned for years. And I didn't think it would ever happen, but it did happen, but our pre-plan really worked. We knew right away exactly where to park their trucks, exactly where we would get the water, and how we would attack it," the chief said.
One firefighter from Lincoln did suffer a back injury and a retired firefighter from Connecticut who was working the Providence Fire Department canteen truck was transported to the hospital with chest pains.
Firefighters remained at the site throughout the night to put out any hot spots. The chief said an inside firewall held and the fire did not spread to the entire mill.
Fire crews from more than a dozen surrounding communities worked to protect the adjacent five companies. The owner of Rhode Island Ventilation told NBC 10 that her building wasn't damaged by fire, but the crews had to smash through part of the building to be sure no embers had gotten through.
A bulldozer will be brought in on Friday to clear the remains.
In a statement from TPG Companies, the building owners said, "The mill structure on Carrington Street was not occupied and did not house any tenants or businesses. The building has been vacant for several years with the exception of a small area dedicated to storage of furniture, carpeting and common building materials. We appreciate the brave efforts of all the first responders and will assist local authorities in determining a cause."
Officials said the cause is not known and that it remains under investigation.
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