Candle or lighter likely cause of fire at abandoned building

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An abandoned mill building on Robinson Avenue was engulfed in flames in a four-alarm fire on Oct. 20. Staff Photo/Adam Bass
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The cause of a four-alarm fire that engulfed an abandoned mill building on Robinson Avenue is under investigation, according to North Attleborough Fire Chief Christopher Coleman.

According to Coleman, the fire was first reported at approximately 1:10 a.m. on Oct. 20. Firefighters in an ambulance saw smoke and flames emanate from the rear end of the building’s second and third floors. The fire was extinguished at 1:30 a.m., and an investigation was launched. The Fire Department told the building owner about the fire and the owner has been meeting with a developer to find a way to repurpose the building..

Coleman said investigators believe a device likely caused the fire in the building, such as a candle or a lighter, and evidence suggested a person had an object that started the blaze. Coleman said, however, that it was unlikely that the fire was started on purpose.

“We don’t believe it was set intentionally,” Coleman said. “The building has no power and no utilities. It had to start somewhere.”

Coleman said the abandoned mill building had been used for different purposes over the years, namely operating as a moving company and an auto body shop. During periods when it was vacant, the mill was sometimes occupied by homeless people during colder months. Coleman said those who enter the buildings could be in harm’s way due to deteriorating conditions and encouraged them to use shelters provided by the town.

“We encourage people not to go into the abandoned buildings during the winter months,” Coleman said. “There are shelters people can utilize. This is a much bigger issue that happens as there are no places to go and they end up in these buildings.”