Fire destroys historic Mississippi factory building that once produced 1.5 million uniforms for military during World War II

Published 1:42 pm Tuesday, February 27, 2024

A fire destroyed an old Mississippi factory building listed in the National Register of Historic Places that at one point produced 1.5 million uniforms for the military during World War II.

The former Stahl-Urban Company building on Main Street in Brookhaven burned to the ground Monday night.

A Lincoln County deputy spotted the flames toward the rear of the building and called it in about 6:30 p.m. Monday, and then the calls started flooding in, officials said. The fire moved quickly, sweeping through structure, feeding on heart pine and birdseye maple floors.

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Though the city’s fire department responded quickly, there was no saving the historic landmark where hundreds of residents had worked in its four-plus decades of producing military uniforms, as well as pants, shirts and jackets.

Brookhaven Fire Department Chief Jeff Ainsworth said the blaze was the largest square-footage fire he had ever worked — more than 20,000 square feet.

Just one year earlier ­— on Feb. 26, 2023 — fire ripped through and destroyed the Brookwood Apartment Complex on East Chippewa Street, resulting in two deaths. As far as fire and safety officials knew Tuesday morning, no one had been inside the Stahl-Urban building when it burned, and no injuries were sustained by anyone who responded to the blaze.

Volunteer fire departments from across Lincoln County were called in to assist, and anyone who could respond with their respective departments pitched in.

“I would put our VFDs up against any county’s,” said Ainsworth. “They come whenever we call, and in numbers. They work hard. We have worked together so many times. They know what we need, and they provide it. A big thank you to them.”

Ainsworth said crews worked throughout the night to contain the fire, keeping it from spreading to nearby structures.

One “jump” did take place, with the periodically gusting wind carrying enough burning embers half a mile westward, where they settled on dry logs by Rex Lumber’s pellet mill. That fire was still burning after 8 a.m. Tuesday. A Mississippi Forestry Service fire crew had trenched around the area, and Rex fire crews were keeping watch.

The remains of Stahl-Urban were still smoking through Tuesday morning. Later, firefighters will look through the debris to insure no one had been inside during the blaze.

“It’s too hot for us to get in there, still,” Ainsworth said. “But once it’s cool enough, we’ll go through and search the area.”

The State Fire Marshal’s Office is expected to investigate the cause of the blaze.