‘Suspicious’ fire destroys Bancroft Mills building owned by state


WILMINGTON, DELAWARE (5/2/2015) A ‘suspicious’ fire swept through a building owned by the state at the former Bancroft Mills complex early today, burning it to the ground.

Firefighters remained at the scene late Saturday night as the Wilmington Fire Marshal’s office tried to determine how the fire started.

Investigators were reviewing surveillance video from the area with the assistance of state fire marshals and state parks police, said Wilmington Battalion Chief James Jobes.

The blaze in an abandoned, wooden three-story building at 169 Bancroft Mills Road, along the Brandywine Creek, was reported just after 1 a.m. and heavy fire was showing by the time Wilmington firefighters arrived.

The fire quickly went to a second alarm, with additional units called in from Delaware and Pennsylvania, including water tankers from the Delaware Air National Guard.

The blaze was placed under control at 5:28 a.m., said Jobes.

He said there were no injuries reported.

Wilmington Fire Chief Anthony Goode said just after 1 p.m. that firefighters remained on the scene wetting down buildings. Goode said no origin or cause has been released.

The building is owned by the state Division of Parks & Recreation, said Michael Globetti, spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

He said state parks enforcement officers labeled the fire suspicious and said it began sometime after 8 p.m. Friday.

The building housed a carpentry and maintenance shop at Bancroft Mills, which manufactured textiles from the 1830s through the turn of the 21st century, Globetti said.

He said it is the only structure in the Bancroft Mills complex owned by Delaware State Parks.

Only one other building in the privately owned Bancroft Mills complex – the mill’s power plant – was affected by the fire, Globetti said.

“Because of the fire, however, access today to Alapocas Run State Park and other recreational activities such as rock climbing managed by the Division of Parks & Recreation may be limited while Wilmington firefighters continue to monitor the situation as the fire is extinguished,” he said.

The mill dates to 1787 and also was once used for paper production. In more recent times attempts had been made to develop the site for condominiums.

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