Fire Engulfs Historic Textile Mill in Maine

July 17, 2009

A roaring fire swept through a historic textile mill in Maine on Wednesday, sending burning embers through the air as thousands of people gathered to watch.

The Cowan Mill, which was unoccupied, was engulfed soon after the fire was reported around 3:45 p.m., with flames shooting from windows and licking through its roof, police Lt. Mark Cornelio said.

Embers from the burning 60,000-square-foot mill set fire to the roof of the far larger Bates Mill No. 5 nearby, but firefighters quickly doused the flames. Police went from building to building checking roofs in the area, while firefighters shot water onto the flames. No one was hurt.

The mill was built in 1850 and is on the National Historic Register. It overlooks the Great Falls on the Androscoggin River, which runs through Maine and New Hampshire.

Rachel Desgrosseilliers, who works at a nearby museum, said she was witnessing “history burning.”

“It’s one of our greatest landmarks,” Desgrosseilliers told the Sun Journal newspaper. “It was one of the first ones here. We’re trying to save them, and now this. It’s sad.”

The newspaper said police were searching for a woman and two men to question them about the blaze. State fire marshal investigators were on the scene, along with local investigators.

The mill was part of Island Point, a peninsula on the Androscoggin River, and efforts were afoot to redevelop the 8-acre property.

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