The Maple Avenue mill fire in Seekonk was fully put out at approximately 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Seekonk Fire Capt. Michael Healey told the Board of Selectmen at the meeting that night.
Local, state and federal investigators are looking into the cause of the fire that sparked at approximately 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday and engulfed the 105,000-square-foot building. The building was destroyed, Fire Chief Alan Jack told the media at a press conference early Wednesday afternoon.
"Someone started this fire," Jack said. "We're not saying it was an arson fire. What we are saying is it didn't start by itself. Someone caused this fire to start. Whether or not it was ... somebody with an intention to burn this building or whether or not it was an intruder who entered the building and lit a fire for cooking or to keep warm, I just don’t know if I can answer that question."
The building, which was condemned three years ago, has been frequently visited by intruders, Jack said. Graffiti could be found in the building. Utilities were supposed to have been shut off, so it came as a surprise when a gas line was ruptured in the back of the building at approximately 5 p.m. on Tuesday.
"There was a very loud burst of gas once the pipe was ruptured and there was a plume of brown product that probably went 50 to 70 feet in the air," Jack said.
Firefighters were immediately removed from the area. Workers from Columbia Gas were able to cut and cap the pipe, which Jack described as an eight-inch high-pressure line, without affecting service to nearby customers.
Jack said it had not been determined why the building that was not supposed to have any working utilities was receiving gas service.
Workers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Environmental Protection collected water and air samples in the area. Initial testing showed "a very small product of contaminant" in puddles around the structure and a "miniscule amount of containment" in the air, Jack said. He said further results are pending.
The Department of Public Works removed debris from the site to make sure it did not go into the Ten Mile River, which borders one side of the structure.
The fire was contained about two hours after firefighters arrived at the scene. Work continued throughout the day on and into the night to put out the hotspots, an effort that was made more difficult by the rain because it kept the smoke down.
Work was able to continue in the dark with the use of six light towers that illuminated the entire scene, Jack said. Crews from Attleboro, Pawtucket, East Providence, Rehoboth, Dighton, Swansea and Raynham assisted with the firefight. A Providence Canteen unit provided food and drinks.
A discussion about the fire is expected to take place at tonight's Board of Selectmen meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m. at .