A Lincolnton firefighter received head injuries while responding to a Sunday morning fire at an abandoned textile mill, fire officials said.
The firefighter was taken to Carolinas Medical Center-Lincoln for treatment after Lincolnton Fire Chief Mitch Burgin said part of the building’s wall collapsed on the man’s face.
The incident took place around 3:30 a.m. at Massapoag Mill, located at 407 Massapoag Road in Lincolnton, fire officials said.
Firefighters had been removing part of the burned area inside the structure when the wall collapsed.
The agency first responded to an alarm call at a home on South Aspen Street after a resident smelled smoke in multiple rooms of the house, Burgin said.
It was later determined, through assistance from Lincolnton police, that the source of the smoke stemmed from the mill, not the home.
At that point, smoke had already dispersed throughout most of the area, according to fire officials.
Firefighters located a small campfire inside the mill, which had already burned through the floor and continued to smolder in the crawl space area underneath by the time crews arrived on site, Burgin said.
South Fork Fire Department provied provide mutual aid in the incident.
Firefighters were uncertain as to how long the fire had been burning and were on scene nearly six hours removing portions of the burned floor.
Pieces were placed outside the mill to prevent potential future flare-ups, Burgin said.
The injured firefighter was released from the hospital the same day and returned to work with the city department Sunday evening.
Police and fire officials are currently working out how to keep future fires from occurring at the site, which Burgin said has suffered fire damage on multiple occasions over the years, making the mill a community “eye-sore.”
As a result, the building has been deemed unstable and a danger to first responders and has been labeled a “signal 13″ structure, Burgin said.
About a dozen such buildings exist inside the city, according to fire officials, and due to potential safety hazards, firefighters are not allowed to go inside them, making it difficult for crews to battle blazes at those sites.
Burgin believed it is part of his responsibility as fire chief to eliminate any hazards that may harm firefighters, police or citizens.
“Vacant and unsecured structures are a hazard that can be eliminated,” he said.
The most recent blaze at the former cotton mill occurred in June, during which time, another firefighter suffered injuries from a wall that collapsed on him.
In addition to being unable to fight the fire from inside the mill last summer, firefighters’ only water source proved to be more than 1,000 feet from the site, fire officials said.
Three juveniles later admitted to police that they accidentally started the incident by dropping candles, investigators said.