Friday, October 1, 1965 was wet and windy in New Bedford. Extreme Weather Watch says .66 of an inch of rain fell early. It was mild, 68 degrees, but a steady 35-to-40-mile-an-hour wind howled throughout the day. It was not a good day to fight a fire, especially a mill fire.

At 3:45 p.m., the New Bedford Fire Department received an alarm. According to comments made to the Standard-Times by then-Fire Chief Richard T. Gaughan, Ladder 3 and Engines 1, 4 and 6 were the first apparatus to arrive at the scene.

The fire was at the abandoned Pairpoint Mill building at 30-44 Prospect Street at the bottom of Potomska Street, abutting the Acushnet River.

What Sparked New Bedford's Historic Pairpoint Mill Fire?
Courtesy Spinner Publications
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The Pairpoint Mill, a four-story brick building measuring 575 feet by 110 feet, was surrounded by the Gunderson Building to the south and the Containor Building to the north. Like the Pairpoint Mill, the Gunderson Mill was also four stories. The Containor Building may have been two stories.

There were gas storage tanks to the north of the mill complex and houses to the south.

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When firefighters arrived at the scene, the first three floors of the Pairpoint Mill were fully engulfed in flames. Though battling strong winds, firefighters were able to contain the inferno to the westerly portion of the Pairpoint Mill.

What Sparked New Bedford's Historic Pairpoint Mill Fire?
Courtesy Spinner Publications
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According to Chief Gaughan, the fire destroyed the Pairpoint Mill. The Gunderson Building and the Containor Building suffered moderate damage.

The paper reported Chief Gaughan said a man was in the Pairpoint building "removing items of salvage value."

"Using a cutting torch, he attempted to remove a section of 2-inch gas pipe that was still connected," Gaughan told the paper. "The gas ignited, and he (the man) was knocked unconscious in the resulting explosion."

The man reportedly regained consciousness and ran a quarter of a mile to report the explosion and fire.

More than 100 firefighters from nine engine and three ladder companies fought the Pairpoint Mill fire. They were on scene for more than 48 hours. I've seen no injury reports.

New Bedford's New Fire Safety Inflatable House

Gallery Credit: Michael Rock

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There's nothing better than lighting up a nice bonfire on a warm summer night. But depending on where you live in Massachusetts, it actually could be illegal to do just that. Naturally, there are exceptions to every rule, and bonfires being used for outdoor cooking are allowed, but exceptions aside, 22 cities and towns across the Bay State have prohibited open burning year-round because they're just too densely-built and populated for burning to be considered safe. Is your community on the list?

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