Fire at Vacant Manchester Mill Site Appears Deliberate: Officials

Authorities are investigating after someone apparently set fire Monday evening to an old mill site in Manchester that has sat vacant for years.

Emergency crews were called to 260 Tolland Turnpike, a collection of empty industrial buildings, around 5:50 p.m. Monday.

Flames were visible from the windows of the empty mill at the height of the fire, and a plume of black smoke rose into the air as building materials burned on two floors of an empty building.

Fire officials said it appears some had "deliberately gathered" wood and brush and lit them on fire. The building's roof collapsed before crews arrived at the scene.

Sixteen firefighters fought the flames from the outside, because the abandoned structure had been "red tagged" and deemed unsafe. Firefighters would have entered only to save a life, but the burning building was empty.

Crews were able to contain the blaze within about 30 minutes and said no hazardous materials were involved. No one was hurt.

"There's plenty of fuel in there. We were just hoping, you know, this time, it's so rotted or wet it wouldn't burn," said Manchester Fire Battalion Chief Dan Huppe. "Apparently, we weren't right. It found a way to light up."

It's not the first time this building has burned. Fire prompted a partial collapse of the structure last August, and investigators said at the time it appeared to be a case of arson.

"It's housed several different businesses in the last 110, 115 years," Huppe said. "It's been vacant the last 20, 25 years and this is our fifth fire here in as many as 10 or 12 years."

Firefighters would like to see the buildings demolished. They said there is a plan in place to tear down the complex in May and hope it happens before yet another fire breaks out.

The fire marshal is investigating but will not be entering the building, according to Fire Chief David Billings.

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