SYLACAUGA, AL (WSFA) - Five people were inside the abandoned Avondale Mills plant Wednesday when the complex burst into flames. The workers were in the process of preparing the building for demolishment when it's believe lightning struck. All five were able to get out of the complex safely, and no injuries were reported.
Large flames and thick, black smoke billowed from the brick building in Sylacauga, and 24 hours later, fire crews are still putting out hot spots.
WBRC Fox 6 in Birmingham reports that the flames spread quickly through the century old building, eating wood wooden materials of the same age. Dust and leftover debris from the plant's closure also added to the fire's fuel.
The cause of the fire has not yet been official established, though investigators are leaning towards a lightning strike as the cause. Eyewitnesses said the building erupted into flames after a thunderstorm and lightning passed through the area.
AVONDALE MILLS HISTORY (Info from Encyclopedia of Alabama)
- Founded in 1897 by the Trainer family
- Ceased operations in July 2006, "unable to compete with foreign textile manufacturers and unable to recover from a tragic train accident next to its Graniteville, SC facility in 2005
- First president: Braxton Bragg Comer (later to become an Alabama Governor)
- First plant built in 1897 in Birmingham neighborhood of Avondale, lending the plant its name
- Bought in 1986 by Walton Monroe Mills Inc.
- Merged with MMI in 1993 to become Avondale Incorporated; Avondale Mills Inc. became a subsidiary of Avondale Incorporated
- In July 2006, Avondale Incorporated ceased operations; closed 3 plants in Sylacauga and one plant each in Alex City, Pell City, and Rockford, laying off more than 1300 workers.
- Overall, more than 4000 workers in many states lost their jobs when Avondale shut down