Smoke still lingers after Opelika mill fire - WRBL

Smoke still lingers after Opelika mill fire

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Officials are still trying to find out what started the fire that destroyed the Old Pepperell Mill in Opelika. Smoke was still rising from the scorched building on Thursday.

The smoke is expected to be around until the weekend. Even though nobody was hurt in this fire, this is still emotional for the owners who had big plans for the mill.

Fire crews continue to put water on the smoldering remains of the Pepperell Mill in Opelika. They expect to fight lingering flames and smoke for a few more days.

 "We have debris that was burning and has fallen down inside the plant, inside the building," said Byron Prather, Assistant Chief with the Opelika Fire Department. "Then, you have other debris that fell on top of it. We are unable to put any water on the fire that is burning. Even though we are putting water on the part where we think the fire is, the water is not getting to where it is burning."

State officials got a look from the sky at the depth of the damage. They took a helicopter over the mill to try to determine the cause. The smoke still rises 48 hours after the fire engulfed the building.

The burning of the Pepperell Mill is emotional for a lot of people in Opelika. Not only for the people that worked there for years. Work at the mill is what fed their families. But, also for the owners who had big plans to turn the mill into loft apartments.

Plans for those apartments had been made with a contractor and work was supposed to begin soon.

 "We probably would have been closing on it around May 1st," said Roy Granger with the Regeneration Company. "All of the paperwork had been submitted to bring the mill into the historic district and register, federal and state."

The plans were for the mill apartments to be the centerpiece of the Pride of Pepperell, an area with housing and businesses. As firefighters continue to work, they are all still wondering how this fire got started in the first place.

"We really don't know until we get the Fire Marshall's report," said Granger. "That is their expertise. Everyone feels like it was probably a spark from a demolition saw."

Granger says they will reassess their plans for the area, but, a couple of the one story buildings are still intact.

Some of the walls of the mill are being torn down.

One good thing for people that live near the mill, Opelika Public Works tells us that they don't see any environmental hazards because of the fire.


Dayne Young

Dayne is a sports anchor and reporter for WRBL. He started covering the Chattahoochee Valley in September 2012. More>>

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