Fire consumes long-empty Railroad Salvage building, no injuries reported

  • A Turners Falls firefighter sprays down the Railroad Salvage mill building on Power Street in Turners Falls which caught fire early Saturday morning December 31, 2016. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Firefighters spray down the Railroad Salvage mill building on Power Street in Turners Falls which caught fire early Saturday morning December 31, 2016. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • A Turners Falls firefighter sprays down the Railroad Salvage mill building on Power Street in Turners Falls which caught fire early Saturday morning December 31, 2016. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • A Turners Falls firefighter directs a ladder at the Railroad Salvage mill building on Power Street in Turners Falls which caught fire early Saturday morning December 31, 2016. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • A rainbow appears as firefighters spray down the Railroad Salvage mill building on Power Street in Turners Falls which caught fire early Saturday morning December 31, 2016. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • The burned remains of the Railroad Salvage mill building on Power Street in Turners Falls which caught fire early Saturday morning December 31, 2016. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Bystanders and television reporters on scene at the Railroad Salvage mill building on Power Street in Turners Falls which caught fire early Saturday morning December 31, 2016. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Several area fire departments battle a two-alarm fire in the old Railroad Salvage mill building in Turners Falls early Saturday morning. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Several area fire departments battle a two-alarm fire in the old Railroad Salvage mill building in Turners Falls early Saturday morning. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Several area fire departments battle a two-alarm fire in the old Railroad Salvage mill building in Turners Falls early Saturday morning. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Members of the Turners Falls Fire Department battle a 2 alarm fire in the old Railroad Salvage mill building in Turners Falls early Saturday morning. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Several area fire departments battle a 2 alarm fire in the old Railroad Salvage mill building in Turners Falls early Saturday morning, Dec. 31, 2016. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Several area fire departments battle a two-alarm fire in the old Railroad Salvage mill building in Turners Falls early Saturday morning. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • The front wall collapses as several area fire departments battle a two-alarm fire in the old Railroad Salvage mill building in Turners Falls early Saturday morning. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Several area fire departments battle a two-alarm fire in the old Railroad Salvage mill building in Turners Falls early Saturday morning. Here the front of the building has collapsed. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Several area fire departments battle a two-alarm fire in the old Railroad Salvage mill building in Turners Falls early Saturday morning. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Several area fire departments battle a two-alarm fire in the old Railroad Salvage mill building in Turners Falls early Saturday morning. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Several area fire departments battle a two-alarm fire in the old Railroad Salvage mill building in Turners Falls early Saturday morning. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Several area fire departments battle a two-alarm fire in the old Railroad Salvage mill building in Turners Falls early Saturday morning. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Several area fire departments battle a two-alarm fire in the old Railroad Salvage mill building in Turners Falls early Saturday morning. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Several area fire departments battle a two-alarm fire in the old Railroad Salvage mill building in Turners Falls early Saturday morning. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Several area fire departments battle a two-alarm fire in the old Railroad Salvage mill building in Turners Falls early Saturday morning. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Several area fire departments battle a two-alarm fire in the old Railroad Salvage mill building in Turners Falls early Saturday morning. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

Published: 12/31/2016 6:53:03 AM

TURNERS FALLS — A two-alarm fire that destroyed the already decaying former Railroad Salvage building this weekend will refocus the town’s attention on a property it had once hoped could be redeveloped.

The former 19th-century mill between the Connecticut River and the power canal caught fire early Saturday morning, drawing several area fire departments to battle raging flames for hours. Firefighters continued to tend the smoldering ruins into the new year.

Town officials have been worried about the state of the building for years now. In 2011, the town building inspector reported the then-owner had been ordered to clean up debris from a partial collapse, which would then leave a two-story building with collapsed debris that had been mingled with some asbestos. The owner claimed he had a buyer for the building, and he was in arrears in taxes.

As recently as January 2012, the owner was discussing with town officials possible reuse of part of the former cotton mill site, but not of the building itself. Nothing has come of the plan.

Montague Board of Selectmen’s Chairman Richard Kuklewicz said that given the significant damage caused by the fire, the board will be in contact with the owner to make sure the building is made safe as quickly as possible. Kuklewicz said the incident has moved the process of securing and removing the building “even more to the forefront.”

The call came in at 1:38 a.m. from an employee of Cabot Station in Montague City who saw it on a security camera across the street from the long vacant and partially collapsed mill building and former department store near the heart of downtown.

Turners Falls Fire Chief John Zellmann said there was no power in the brick building and that the cause is under investigation by the state fire marshal.

The building, in the Patch section of the village, has been unused and falling into decay for at least two decades.

Initially, the Turners Falls ladder truck poured water on the flames from a nearby hydrant but Turners and subsequent departments started drawing water from the nearby power canal so as not to drain the town water supply.

As the fire spread north, South Deerfield set up its ladder truck to contain the fire in the southern part of the building. Northfield set up its ladder truck on the east side of the building where the fire was consuming another part of the mill.

With the roof mostly collapsed from years of neglect, the wooden timbers and floors piled up in the center fueled the fire. It burned for hours, lighting up the sky, and was visible from Greenfield. Several hours into the fire, the front of the brick building came down in a thundering cloud of smoke and dust.

Responding to the fire were Turners Falls, Greenfield, Bernardston, Northfield, South Deerfield and Montague Center departments. The Massachusetts Department of Fire Services Special Operations was also on the scene.

As of 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon, firefighters from Turners Falls and Greenfield were still there, using a ladder truck to quell what remained of the fire in the center of the building. Zellmann said the crews had been unable to reach the inner fire with the ladder truck until its remaining metal roof collapsed.

“If it goes much longer, we’ll pull in some mutual aid,” he said. Zellmann had released all other departments, whose crews had been on the scene since around 2 a.m.

Deerfield was called to the scene to take over close to midnight Saturday.

No known injuries

State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey confirmed Saturday that state troopers assigned to his office had received information regarding a homeless man who had been known to use the building for shelter.

“They have been able to locate that person,” Ostroskey said. There were no known injuries.

Building’s history

Anne Harding of Turners Falls fleshed out the building’s history for an art exhibit in 2014. According to Harding’s timeline, the building began as the Griswold Mill in 1879, producing cotton cloth. Another textile company bought the factory in the 1940s, and in the 1950s it saw retail use as the Rockdale Store. In 1973, Reuben “Rubie” Vine opened one of his Railroad Salvage discount retail stores in the building. The store closed in 1994.

Since then it has passed through several owners, none of whom were able to redevelop the property, a hope town planners had for years.




Greenfield Recorder

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