SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) – There is new information about the massive fire at a former grain mill in Orange over the weekend. Orange Police Chief James Sullivan told Us Monday that the fire was likely started on purpose and that the investigation by Orange Police and Fire Department and the city’s fire marshal ‘State of Mass. continues, a $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest.
On Saturday, flames engulfed a long-abandoned mill on West River Street in Orange. Right away, Sullivan didn’t suspect any natural causes.
“The fact that it was an empty building, there was no power, we weren’t in the middle of a thunderstorm,” Sullivan said.
The response has been massive. More than 20 fire departments from Vermont to New Hampshire were involved in spreading the fire to four other buildings. James Davis of Greenfield shot this video on his phone.
James Davis of Greenfield shot this video of the weekend’s massive fire at a mill in Orange.
“I was across the river and we could feel the heat from there,” Davis said.
Now the building is reduced to rubble and demolition is underway by the family business of Kirtsen Bourgeois.
“This fire was once in a lifetime. I’ve never seen anything so big…really devastating,” Bourgeois said.
It is a loss felt by Linda Temple, who has worked for the Orange Historical Society for 40 years.
[Reporter: Is it kind of sad to see these old places go?]
“Oh yeah, absolutely,” Temple added.
She opened a folder full of historical documents and told the story of the factory’s checkered past. It was originally the New Home Sewing Machine Company, which became Franklin County’s largest employer in 1890. It included several buildings including one identical to the one that burned down.
“…And that was in the 1960s or 1970s and my dad built his house out of the bricks that they had pushed into the river from the first one that collapsedadded Temple.
The building then belonged to the Irving paper mill where Temple’s uncle worked. Finally, for a brief time, it was a grain factory, before becoming vacant.
In March, the city of Orange set up a detour around the ruined building and cited a recent engineering survey that showed conditions in the private building were getting worse. We were unable to reach the owner of the building.
“Since the city has been trying to see the property so they can demolish it, unfortunately it happened before the process was complete,” Bourgeois said.
The city of Orange said legal action was underway so that a solution could be found.
“The building should have been demolished years ago. It should never have come to this,” Davis added.
Now Sullivan is asking the public to stay away from the stage as it may be contaminated with asbestos.
“If we catch them on the property stealing things from the property, they will face criminal charges and possibly arrest. They’re going to have to stay off this site,” Sullivan said.
His attention turns to who may have started the fire.
“…And the public provided us with information very early on and we followed and followed the leads that they gave us,” Sullivan added.
The investigation continues as some wonder what the future holds for the land that will soon be empty.
“It would be nice to see them build apartments for the elderly along the river,” Davis said.
Others hope that the region’s rich history will not be forgotten.
Two people were treated at the scene for minor injuries, but did not need to be taken to hospital.
Anyone with information about the fire should call the Orange police.
Copyright 2022. Western Mass News (WGGB/WSHM). All rights reserved.