A team of investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was on the ground in Windsor Tuesday looking into the cause of the Sunday morning fire that destroyed a historic mill.
Windsor Severance Fire Rescue asked for assistance from the ATF because it doesn’t have the resources to investigate such a large-scale fire. The ATF National Response Team is made up of certified fire investigators, experts in explosives and forensics and even specially trained dogs.
“Over the coming days, they will be working to conduct a systematic, methodical and thorough examination on the fire scene,” said Terry Henderson, Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the ATF Denver Field Division.
Henderson said it was too early in the investigation to know how or where the fire started.
“We will go where the evidence leads us,” he said.
The fire broke out at the mill just before 2 a.m. Sunday. Firefighters said the mill ignited like a matchstick. Debris from the building was still smoldering Tuesday morning. Winds pushed white smoke down Main Street.
“The biggest thing we’re trying to do is keep the smoke down,” said Todd Vess, battalion chief for Windsor Severance Fire Rescue. “The smoke is obviously impacting some local businesses.”
The historic Windsor Mill was damaged by a tornado that tore through town in 2008. Much of the structure was left standing and was in the process of being renovated into a brewery and restaurant.
“It was going to be the catalyst for the development of our downtown,” said Windsor Mayor Kristie Melendez.
Melendez called the mill a piece of history and a testament to what those in Windsor cherish in their community.
“It represents our history, our agricultural roots and it represents to all of us who live here those who came before us,” she said.
Ron Sladek doesn’t live in town, but he has a special attachment to the mill in Windsor. He’s a historical preservation consultant who helped get the Windsor Mill added to the National Register of Historic Places.
“I just think it’s heartbreaking for everybody to see a building of this size and importance to the history of the community go down in flames,” Sladek said.
Sladek stopped by Tuesday to take pictures of the mill and say goodbye.
“I don’t know what’s going to be left of it, if they’ll even be able to save the brick portion, but it’s never going to be what it was before,” Sladek said. “This was just such a beautiful, really interesting, historic building for the community.”
Mayor Melendez said the property owners were committed to completing the brewery and restaurant project. It’s just unclear what that project will look like.
The ATF team is expected to be working in Windsor for several days.