Firefighters, ATF starts Bibb Mill investigation

Red brick still smoulders at the Bibb Mill.

Underneath the rubble, the fire that destroyed the historic building burns, said Assistant Fire Chief Jerry Fountain. Monday morning, firefighters and the National Response Team from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives stood in the parking lot of the 750,000 square-foot building that was reduced to a husk early Thursday.

"A building that large is just a very slow process," Fountain said of the investigation his department and the ATF is undertaking. "It's a methodical type of thing."

Both departments are examining the fire's burn patterns as well as interviewing all the witnesses and first responders in order to build a reasonable scenario about the blaze's cause. An official cause hasn't yet been determined.

Fountain said they must learn the temperature at the time of the fire, how long it burned and whether any chemicals came into play. Oils used for lubrication when the mill was in operation may still be within the building's remains, and items may have been kept there for storage.

Before investigators can get into certain spots within the mill, they must ensure it's stable. Some portions of the mill likely will remain standing. Fountain said one part near the near will probably have to come down for safety reasons.

While several streets in Bibb City were blocked off last week, most have been reopened. Three areas still have cordons, though.

A five-inch hose runs across First Avenue just south of 38th Street, and road blocks sit on the street. Drivers can can around the barriers by using 35th Street, Fountain said.

Another hose is across a part of Park Avenue, and the final barriers are at the mill itself. Fountain said the blocks could be gone in a few days, though it's not certain.