Mill Plant Fire Probe Continues
Robbins police say it may be several months before the investigation into the fire at the old Robbins mill is concluded.
"If you saw what it looks like out there, you would know what I mean," Police Chief J.A. Sheffield said, referring to the huge amounts of debris to move and sift through.
Last week, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives National Response Team assisted with the investigation. Despite their expert analysis and the use of accelerant detecting dogs, the team left town Aug. 21 without being able to say what started the fire.
The massive fire occurred early in the morning Aug. 17. It destroyed much of the rear of the 300,000-square-foot building and caused extensive damage throughout the rest of the structure. The Robbins Police report says that the fire destroyed about three quarters of the mill. Rubble continued to smoke and smolder through the next week.
Robbins Police Capt. Alan Sessoms drove to the mill as soon as he heard the fire dispatch, according to the police report. He was the first responder to arrive. He saw smoke coming from the roof and walked into the plant through the front employee entrance, the report says.
"Once inside (he) observed flames to his left and to his (right)," it says.
Sessoms left the building and radioed back that he'd seen flames and began securing the perimeter as firefighters arrived. The Robbins Fire Department worked to extinguish the fire, but it quickly became clear that it was too large.
Eventually, all 17 fire departments in the county responded to the scene, along with dozens of departments from neighboring counties.
Sheffield said that it wasn't just the firefighters who stepped up to the plate. Everyone in the town responded, he said.
"I commend how the community came together," Sheffield said. "It was a great community effort."
The Police Department estimated the damage to the building at $500,000, but the ATF put it at more than $1 million. A Randleman company called EVH Supply Co. had purchased the building in January.
The old mill used to house the Millikan Textiles plant when it was the top employer in the county.
Though it had not been a working plant for years, it was still a Robbins landmark, used by then-Sen. John Edwards as a backdrop to announce in 2003 his candidacy for president of the United States. He and his father, Wallace, once worked there.
Contact Matthew Moriarty at 693-2479 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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