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Police: Juveniles dropped candles, sparking mill fire

Staff Writer

Police said three juveniles admitted to accidentally setting an abandoned Lincolnton mill on fire earlier this month.

The individuals were initially fearful of talking to detectives about what had happened, an agency press release said.

The juveniles, two of whom live in Catawba County and a third who lives in Lincolnton, told police they dropped burning candles inside the Massapoag Mill, staring the large-scale blaze that stumped local fire and law enforcement officials for more than a week.

Criminal charges will not be filed against the trio at this time. Police said they will face charges in juvenile court for breaking and entering and larceny.

Lincolnton Fire Department, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and officials with the State Bureau of Investigation assisted police with the case.

Southern Pride Search Dogs also provided cadaver dogs to search the mill wreckage for any possible bodies, Fire Chief Mitch Burgin said. None were found.

Because the city condemned the building a few years ago after a roof collapse, fire officials said the structure sustained “no damage” outside the nearly $50,000 in destroyed contents.

The former textile mill served as a storage house for renters and their various items in recent years.

Firefighters took hours to battle the blaze due to the distant location of the closest fire hydrant, 1,200 feet away, and the city fire department’s interior off-limits rule for condemned buildings, also known as “Signal 13” buildings.

As a result, crews were forced to fight the blaze from the exterior only.

Boger City, South Fork, North 321, Howards Creek and Crouse Fire Departments assisted Lincolnton Fire Department in the incident.

John Rhodes founded the mill in the early 1900s. It changed names over the years with each new owner.

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