Swift Mill fire spares area businesses, hurts foot traffic - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Swift Mill fire spares area businesses, hurts foot traffic

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By Laura Ann Sills - bioemail

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) – Fire crews are still monitoring the hot spots of the old Swift Mill that caught fire Saturday.  Hundred foot flames and clouds of smoke filled the sky while 50 firefighters battled the blaze.

People who own nearby businesses wonder when they will get back to normal, but are thankful the fire spared their buildings.

Bill Becker owns a building next door to the mill. It is about 75 feet from where the fire started.  He was there when it all began.

"At the height of the fire, the flames were leaping 100 feet in the air," says Becker as describes the fire. "We were watching our building be hosed down by the fire department."

SLIDESHOW:
 Swift Mill Fire

His building was built around the same time as the mill and is made of the same material, old clay brick with heart of pine beams.

"When they catch hold, they go up very quickly," says Becker.

Steve Stewart owns an auto shop across the street from the mill, and like Becker, he noticed the smoke first.

"I was in the shop looking through the window and before I knew it was getting difficult to breathe," says Stewart. He grabbed a shirt and put it over his mouth. He realized it was time to go.

"It's definitely going to hurt our business, but I am glad everyone is safe and no one got hurt during the fire," says Stewart.

Investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are interviewing people who might have been around when the fire started.  They are working with the Columbus Fire Investigators to determine where and how the fire started.  

The historic part of the building on 6th Avenue close to the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce was most affected.   

The Swift Mill made denim and closed in 2002.  The building was purchased by Pate Burt from Albany, Georgia for $1.2 million in 2007.

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