MILLEDGEVILLE — A faulty cooling unit on the roof of an empty building at the old Forstmann Manufacturing plant was the likely cause of a fire Monday afternoon, officials said.
Baldwin County Fire Chief Tommy Smith said the fire, which was called in about 12:30 p.m., took about 45 minutes to control and another 45 minutes to put out completely. “We don’t know what started it,” Smith said.
He speculated the blaze originated at the cooling units but, “there’s probably not enough left on the roof to determine the cause.”
A woman who was evacuated from an adjacent building was treated at Oconee Regional Hospital, but hospital officials would not disclose her injuries, only saying she’s in stable condition.
No other injuries were reported, Smith said.
There are several businesses located in another building at the complex located off Ga. 22 and Blandy Way, including River Edge Behavioral Health Center. All of the businesses were evacuated by firefighters as a precautionary measure, Smith said, but no other buildings sustained any damage.
Tully Jones, a partner in a group that owns the building that was on fire, said the building is empty. He and his partners are looking to develop the property.
Jones said the cooling units haven’t been used in the decade he and his partners have owned the property.
“I have no clue,” Jones said when asked how the fire might have started. “There’s no power up there.”
Jones said the damage should end up being relatively minor, since the roof is made of 8-inch thick concrete. He said the two cooling units have been scheduled to be replaced anyway.
“We just have to take the debris off,” he said.
John Herring, who uses space at the complex for storage, went outside when he saw the smoke.
“I was worried about the structural integrity of the roof,” said Herring, who shot video of the fire with his camera phone. “I didn’t know how much weight it could hold. The fire department did a real good job. I’m glad they had a ladder truck there. They were able to get right on top of (the fire).”
Units from Baldwin County and the Milledgeville fire departments both responded to the fire.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.