Kent carefully clears mill debris but finding the cause of the fire could take months

Image of a large pile of splintered wood and building materials against a blue sky
Debris from the Kent mill in the week following the Dec. 2 fire. Wendy DiAlesandro/The Portager

Demolition contractors are hard at work removing and transporting debris from the Dec. 2 Kent mill fire, starting on the west side of the structure and eventually moving to the east side, city officials say.

The work is made more difficult because there is no way to know if the structure — and the debris — contains asbestos. The EPA and demolition contractor are obligated to assume the hazardous material is present and to proceed with all caution, Kent Community Development Director Bridget Susel stated in a Friday memo.

Once the demolition contractor completes the removal from the west (rear side of the structure, including the railroad spur), work will center on the east (North Water Street) side, Susel stated. Included in the east side part of the project is removal of the mill’s damaged and unsupported third floor and framing, she stated.

Work is expected to continue until the end of the year, by which time the fencing blocking part of North Water Street will be removed and the road will be reopened to both north and southbound traffic.

The fire demolished much of the rear of the mill, and blew out walls and windows on the front side that faces North Water Street. The tall concrete towers and silos appear to have been left unscathed.

City officials did not specify what parts of the mill might be saved. Nor did they provide any indication as to what might have sparked the fire, which brought mutual aid from fire companies across the county and beyond. 

Firefighters monitoring the aftermath said it may well be months before the state fire marshal’s office is able to provide any answers.

+ posts

Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.