The history of mill fires in Fall River

SE Mass

FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — Firefighters from several area departments responded Monday morning after flames broke out inside a building at Stafford Mills in Fall River.

It was far from the first mill fire in the city, which has a deep-rooted history in the textile industry. Some of those fires knocked down entire structures while in other cases, firefighters were able to get the flames under control before they caused significant damage.

Fall River Mill Fire Timeline

September 1874: The Granite Mill fire claimed the lives of 23 women and children who worked there. They became trapped in the upper floors of the mill, causing some to jump from the windows.

February 1928: Workers tearing down the Pocasset Mill started a fire to keep warm. When they left for the day, they thought the fire was out, but within an hour, an office building known as the Granite Block was in flames along with a nearby bus terminal.

Courtesy: American History Textile Museum

November 1981: Commonly known as the “Arlan’s fire,” the department store located inside the Richard Borden Mill on Rodman Street started in the afternoon and burned for many hours. Crews continuously poured water on the gas station next door in hopes of preventing an explosion.

January 1987: The Kerr Mill located along South Watuppa Pond caught fire. The site now houses a University of Massachusetts Dartmouth facility.

September 2009: Fall River firefighters provided mutual aid after a five-alarm fire broke out inside a four-story building at the Bourne Mill complex just over the border in Tiverton, R.I. Parts of the mill were being renovated into apartments but officials said none of those buildings were harmed in the fire.

October 2010: The vacant former Duro Mill off Bay Street caught fire, causing damage to some of the property. The site’s main building was saved along with a second building but two smaller structures were destroyed.

January 2012: Flames erupted at the King Philip Mill complex. The man who set the fire, Christopher Silva, was later sentenced to 12 years in prison.

July 2015: The former Keri Mill on Weaver Street sustained heavy fire and smoke damage but was largely empty at the time. Two firefighters were injured as crews spent two days battling the flames.

July 2015: Just one day after the Keri Mill fire, units responded to another at Durfee Union Mills on Pleasant Street.

January 2020: It took about four hours for firefighters to knock down the flames at Stafford Mill but many remained on scene after that, working to put out hot spots. A Seekonk firefighter was taken to the hospital with an ankle injury.

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