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Large fire rips through abandoned textile mill in Hillsborough

Posted May 20
Updated May 21

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— Multiple fire crews responded to a large fire near Nash and Calvin Streets Friday around 5 p.m. to the former Bellevue Manufacturing Company textile mill at 202 S. Nash Street in Hillsborough, police said.

Officials said the building was unoccupied at the time of the fire and no injuries were sustained.

The Bellevue mill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated as a local historic landmark by the Hillsborough Board of Commissioners. Flynt Fabrics was the last occupant of the mill, which closed in September of 2000, according to a press release.

Officials said the mill is slated to eventually become apartments.

Firefighters worked quickly to contain the fire Friday afternoon at the 120,000 square foot building.

Nearby business owners said they were immediately worried about the impact of the fire in the local community.

"When we went out back I couldn't believe the wind was blowing out of the southeast," said Tommy Stann of Hillsborough BBQ. "It never blows in that direction. It kept everything away from us.

"One little ember could have landed on our roof, on this whole strip and all these businesses would have been under."

The large plume of smoke billowing out of the structure was seen for more than five miles away.

Fire investigators told WRAL News that the wet weather and quick thinking by neighbors helped contain the fire.

"They had garden hoses out there and they were keeping the woods, separating the building and the mill houses soaked with water," said Hillsborough Fire Marshall Jerry Wagner.

Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens told WRAL News that the building has been unoccupied for more than a decade.

Local restaurants opened their doors Friday night for the firefighters who battled the flames.

"I'm thankful for them for saving our building and our streets, so this is a blessing," Stann said.

Officials said seven departments responded to the fire, which was contained by 7:20 p.m. Firefighters are continuing to work the fire that remains under the roof, which collapsed at 5:25 p.m., according to authorities.

“It’s certainly a tragedy about the building, but it appears nobody was hurt and no other buildings are being affected," Stevens 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.”

The State Bureau of Investigation, Hillsborough 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, according to a press release.

Officials said the mill was "largely extinguished" on Saturday.

“There are two small spots that are still smoldering that we couldn’t get to, and we’ll be checking on those throughout the weekend,” said Orange Rural Fire Department Capt. David Shaw. “But I’d say it’s about 99 percent out.”

The Cedar Grove, Chapel Hill, Efland, Eno, Mebane, New Hope and Orange Grove fire department all assisted in containing the fire. The Orange County Emergency Services and Orange Country Fire Marshal Division also assisted.

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  • John Cecil May 21, 2016
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    5 miles? I saw the plume from Hwy 64 going over Jordan Lake Friday evening

  • Roy Pine May 20, 2016
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    Kudos to the area fire departments for prompt response and keeping it contained to the old mill.

  • Janet Ghumri May 20, 2016
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    Great community spirit! Glad Noone was hurt.