On-lookers gather at remains of Swift Mill - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Public gather at remains of Swift Mill

Sunday Columbus firefighters were still trying to extinguish the fire at the Swift Mill, just 24 hours after the historic building burst into flames.

When a fire of this magnitude happens, it draws a lot of attention from the community. The Swift Mill has been a part of Columbus for decades, and you'll find many people had close ties to the building.

Whether you call them "rubber neckers", "looky Lou's", or just plain nosey, people came out to take a first-hand look at the devastation this fire left behind.

"We got here and there's all kinds of people taking pictures," said Alan and Barbara Farr. They are photographers in their spare time, and when they heard about the devastating fire at the Swift Mill Saturday night, they knew the day after would be a good time to capture some pictures.

Barbara Far said, "We checked it out on the news and they said the mill was burning so we thought we would come and check it out this morning to see what part of it, did the whole thing get destroyed, or what happened."

[ SLIDESHOW: Swift Mill Fire ]

Barbara sees the building as an important part of the city and actually photographed the mill a few years ago, "The mill is obviously a big part of the history of Columbus and it is not going to be here anymore. It hasn't been used in a number of years, but its still a landmark."

Alan Farr added, "You're looking back at the generations of people who earned a living working in that facility. It brings economical boost to the days that brought us to where we are."

Some of the sight-seers know first-hand what it was like to work inside Swift Mill. Bill Bradley was an employee at the denim factory in the 1980's and he was sad to see his former workplace be added to the list of mills lost in fires, "You had the Jordan Mill, Bibb Mill and now this one. The part that surprises me about this is these had tremendous fire suppressions capabilities with sprinkler systems."

He explains part of his job was fire prevention and maintenance, a task he said that fell by the wayside once the plant closed, "I understand the place was abandoned, but I didn't know why the owners aren't required to maintain that fire suppression system so the tax payers don't have to pay all these guys to put their lives at risk to put these fires out."

You'll see the barricades and police tape all over the area surrounding the mill.  Law enforcement officials say they understand people want to come and look at the old mill, but it is important for them to stay behind these lines. Not only does it keep the scene clear for firefighters to do their job, but it keeps you safe from any potential dangers.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, and it is still under investigation.

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