Live streaming by Fall River residents in the wee hours of Monday morning showed clearly the challenge faced by the Fall River Fire Department as yet another old mill building was on fire.

The Stafford Mill at 60 County Street, which houses several businesses, had somehow ignited and flames were shooting through the roof of the multi-story complex by the time firefighters arrive at the scene only about 30 minutes into the new day. Fire officials, all too familiar with battling these mill fires, immediately sounded a general alarm and sought help through mutual aid. A crew from as far away as New Bedford answered the call, as did teams from Somerset, Swansea, and Freetown.

Southern New England has many of these old mills with oil-soaked floors and stone or brick exteriors that present nightmare scenarios for firefighters as they quickly evolve into raging infernos. The challenge is generally to keep the blaze contained and to protect the surrounding neighborhoods. Many times, the mills are a total loss. The fire's too massive to get ahead of. This morning was different.

Matthew Mello via Youtube
Matthew Mello via Youtube

The skill and experience of the Fall River Fire Department allowed firefighters to get and then keep the upper hand in the Stafford Mill fire. There was extensive damage to a portion of the mill but the complex was saved and the neighborhood was never seriously threatened. All of this while crews were also battling a triple-decker house fire on Tremont Street that left a dozen people homeless.

The Stafford Mill fire occurred 33 years almost to the day after the historic Kerr Mill fire that didn't have as happy of an ending.

Kudos to the Fall River Fire Department and all of the firefighters from elsewhere who lent a hand, and to the Fall River Police officers who managed crowd and traffic control so that firefighters could do their job. This is what they train for. Their hard work and dedication saved the day and should not go unrecognized.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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