Massive fire at abandoned textile mill on First Avenue

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Fire crews from Opelika and Auburn responded to a massive fire early Tuesday afternoon at the old Opelika Manufacturing Building on First Avenue and 16th Street shortly after 5 p.m. The building was fully engulfed as police diverted traffic from First Avenue. Rail traffic along the adjacent line was also suspended.

These buildings were in various stages of a demolition project, and it is unknown if this sparked the fire. Crews were on scene to keep residents and traffic from the structure. No injuries have been reported.

Opelika, and all of the State of Alabama, is under an exceptional drought and burn ban. Fire crews will be on site to ensure there are no flare ups overnight that could endanger the surrounding neighborhoods. Mike Hilyer with ESG Engineering said the beams in the building are soaked with oil and may continue burning through Wednesday.

In March 2013, the former West Point Pepperell Mill, part of the National Register of Historic Places, was also destroyed by fire.

This is a developing story, check back for updates.

Update 11/16/2016 6 p.m.: OFD Chief Byron Prather said fire department units are still addressing hot spots and expect to continue through tomorrow when they hope to release the property back to the owners. According to Prather, the investigation into the origin of the fire will begin as soon as possible, but they are unable to enter the building due to the instability of the structure. During the height of the fire, rail traffic was suspended and impacted four trains. Prather said the community fire departments that responded to the call for help from the OFD is what makes Opelika a special place to live. He added that many community businesses have come to provide food to the firefighters who have been on scene since the structure was engulfed. “Opelika is a special community and we appreciate people helping us out,” he said.

Update 11/16/2016, 4 p.m.:  The State Fire Marshall arrived on the scene this afternoon to begin an investigation into the blaze.

The City of Opelika has issued a traffic alert. First Avenue between 16th and 17th Streets will remain closed for two weeks according to a city press release. Motorists are asked to use extra caution in the area.

Raw video footage live from the scene.

 

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