A GROUP of youths are being sought by the police after a suspicious fire in the former Reid & Taylor mill in Langholm on Tuesday.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service was called at 7.50pm to the building in William Street and, while the flames were extinguished fairly quickly, the crews stayed on for a few hours to make sure everything was safe.
None of the surrounding houses was evacuated but the police warned residents to remain indoors and shut their windows because of the risk from asbestos which is present in the old mill.
One resident reported that “flames were pouring out”, while others said there were “explosions”. They were worried about the asbestos.
Another said some of the children, who were out playing, saw youths sitting on the mill wall but they didn’t know who they were. When they were spotted, they sprinted up the street.
They were also worried about the sub-station because, if it was affected, the power to their homes would go off.
The section, which caught fire, was part of a yarn store which was built in 1958.
It was on July 31, 1933 that there was a major fire at the mill which destroyed a five-storey building.
Many people took photos and videos of the blaze and put them on social media and expressed their concerns for neighbours and friends as a huge plume of black smoke could be seen rising from the roof.
The police are treating the fire as suspicious. They were called at about 8.20pm to the site and, on arrival, they found the fire crews were in attendance with three fire appliances.
The surrounding streets, including Henry Street and Elizabeth Street, were cordoned off as a safety precaution while the fire was ongoing.
While enquiries into the cause of the fire are at an early stage, it is being treated as suspicious.
PC Loreto Burke said: “We are keen to hear from anyone who may have been in the area around William Street on Tuesday evening.
“We are particularly keen to identify a number of young people who were seen near the scene of the fire before it was discovered.
“Anyone with any information, which may assist in this investigation, is asked to call police on 101, quoting the reference number 3881 25/6.”
A spokesman for the Fire and Rescue Service said: “We were alerted at 7.50pm to reports of a fire within a vacant mill building in William Street.
“Operations control mobilised a total of three fire appliances and firefighters tackled the flames.
“There are no reported casualties. Crews left the scene after ensuring the area was made safe.”
The building contains an electricity sub-station and ScottishPower sent someone to check the equipment to ensure it had not been affected.
The fire crews took water from the Esk as well as using the standard water supply and residents around the town reported low water pressure.
A Scottish Water spokesman said: “Scottish Water has an agreed process with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service for supporting emergency incidents.
“We would expect the flows drawn from the water network for fighting a fire of this scale to affect pressures to properties within the entire network, as it would in the majority of similar situations.”