EMLENTON (KDKA)- Crews from five counties fought a big fire at a historic mill in Venango County.

The Emlenton Mill caught fire around 10 p.m. on Thursday.

According to neighbor Joseph Kane, it started out small.

“It smelled like an electrical fire, small hole in the building with smoke billowing out,” said Kane. “By the time fire crews showed up, got hoses out, flames starting showing up, starting shooting up to the second floor. It happened pretty quick.”

Fire crews had trouble getting water at the scene according to Emlenton Fire Chief Dave Whitehill.

“On the way in, I asked for as many tankers as we could get because of the frozen river. When we planned for this, we had to have 18,000 gallons a minute of water to control the fire,” Chief WHitehill said.

The chief said tanker trucks brought in from surrounding counties were also freezing up, so that caused even more water issues.

The Emlenton Mill was destroyed and as of 5:30 a.m., the machine shop was still on fire. Over five hours after it started, crews were able to get things under control.

A total of seven buildings, including four homes were damaged. The homes mostly suffered melted siding.

The American Red Cross has been notified to help people out. The fire chief says a local shop opened up to make pizza for the firefighters and some neighbors brought doughnuts and coffee to the scene to keep them warm and fed.

The mill, located on Main Street in Emlenton, was built back in 1857. The historic grist mill has been turned into a tourist destination, with an ice cream shop, museum and a bunkhouse for tourists.

“It’s a big tourist spot,” said Kane. “It’s a great place for kids in the summer time, they had an ice cream shop and more. It’s all burned down, it’s terrible, it’s a terrible loss.”

The mill was one of the first steam-powered grist mills in the United States. It was later converted to gas and then electricity. It was in operation for over 100 years.

This morning, the owners of the mill watched in disbelief as the business they worked so hard to maintain was reduced to piles of singed rubble.

“To lose anything in the community is going to be hard, people who had it were trying to fix it up. In a small town like this, anything you lose is going to be a hard impact for the community,” said Chief Whitehill. “Small community that just lost its last major business in the town. It’s heartbreaking.”

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