The Macon-Bibb Fire Department spent nine days at the Atlantic Cotton Mill, fighting a massive fire the first two days and then an extensive investigation followed. The smoke has cleared but many questions remain.
"We feel like the fire is an accidental fire that took place. We don't feel like there is any malice intent and the exact cause is still to be determined as well," said Macon-Bibb Fire Chief, Marvin Riggins.
The devastating fire ripped through the old Atlantic Cotton Mill on March 24th. The fire department requested the aid of the State Fire Marshall’s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to canvas the 140,000 square foot structure.
'We feel like the fire actually started in the warehouse area...When we got there these areas were already on fire," said Riggins.
Workers were cutting metal toward the east side of the structure and that's where fire officials believe the fire started. In the mean time, the workers moved clear across the property and that's why they didn't realize the fire had started until 30 minutes later.
"Those people (metal workers) on the scene did actually make a call into us, but by the time that call was made, numerous calls had been made," said Riggins.
Chief Riggins says it is possible the blaze started from the arc welding of the metal workers. It could have taken some time for the hot metal to spark the fire.
"We've seen smoldering fires when those types of materials where they do smolder for quite some time before it actually vents itself enough to create a luminous fire,” said Riggins.
When firemen first attacked the flames, they went to the interior of structure and quickly found determined the fire was too dangerous to vanquish from inside. Chief Riggins initiated a code red and pulled all of the men out of the building, just minutes before it collapsed.
Chief Riggins says the fire department’s investigation is closed at this point but Mercer's Insurance Company, Traverlers Insurance, continues to investigate the fire.