Local News

Cause of fire at historic Hillsborough mill deemed 'suspicious'

Posted May 26, 2016 6:54 p.m. EDT
Updated May 26, 2016 10:48 p.m. EDT

The cause of a fire that destroyed a section of the former Bellevue Manufacturing textile mill in Hillsborough on Friday was deemed suspicious, authorities said Thursday.

Officials said the investigation into a cause is continuing, and that the property has been released back to its owner.

The fire broke out at the mill around 5 p.m. on Friday and was “largely extinguished” by Saturday evening, authorities said.

“We know about where the fire started and what was there and what wasn’t,” said Hillsborough Fire Marshal Jerry Wagner.

Alex Coats, owner of nearby Hillsborough BBQ, said the loss of revenue on the day of the fire was substantial.

"Being closed on the second busiest night of the week is a bummer to say the least," Coats said. "Right before service kicks oof, having to evacuate the building wasn't the excitement we'd planned on."

Hillsborough residents said it's a blessing that most of the historic mill is still standing.

"It hurts a little bit, but I don't like to hear that," Amos Pedersen said. "Hopefully they'll resurrect what they were going to do there an still be able to do that."

Officials said the mill was slated to eventually become apartments.

Wagner said the owner of the 30,000-square-foot space is concerned about theft from the property.

“They realize people are curious, but curiosity doesn’t give anybody permission to trespass or take anything,” Wagner said. “This is private property, and any theft or trespassing will be prosecuted.”

Officials said the building is still unsafe due to a large amount of debris that remains from the collapsed roof and walls.

The Bellevue textile mill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated as a historic landmark by the Hillsborough Board of Commissioners.

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 County Fire Marshal Division also assisted.