Fire has been a big problem for millers as long as wooden mills have been built. Mills were constructed in America almost as soon as the first settlers arrived at Cape Cod in 1620. One of the first was built in 1641 by John Elderkin in Dedham, Massachusetts. I know of it because in 1652 it was briefly owned by four men, including a distant relative of mine, John Morse. John's son Ezra Morse and Daniel Pond build a second mill in Dedham in 1664. As far as I know, neither of these mills burned, but that was the exception.
Locally, many, many of the old mills in Delaware succumbed to FIRE.
Middleford Mill, (near Seaford)
About 1840 the property came into possession of Lott Rawlins, and the mill was destroyed by FIRE in 1846.
1817 a steam saw-mill was built on the land of George Hearn by a Mr. Young, of Philadelphia. It was in operation until 1867, when an explosion occurred at the place, four persons were killed and it was abandoned.
Milford Mills, Milford
When John Darby died the property was bought by Peter F. Causey. Causey sold it to his son Peter Causey Jr. in 1870. However, a couple of years later the mill burned down and was rebuilt in 1874-75 as a large four-story mill.
Burton’s Mill, Rock Hole, Millsboro
At some point between 1875 and 1888 the grist mill burned or was destroyed in some other way, so that when Peter R. Burton bought the two halves of the property in 1888 and 1889, he was buying only the mill seat, the land surrounding the dams and the water rights
The mill on what was now known as Betts Pond burned again in 1924, an event within the memories of some present-day Millsboro residents. Wilford Warren erected a new grist mill in 1929 on a reinforced concrete foundation at the approximate site of the old saw mill.
Records Mill, Laurel
Just previous to 1870 the property was purchased
by Theodore Risdon and I. John Adams, and the first flour mill was started under their direction between 1870 and 1875. The mill was destroyed by FIRE in 1878, but was rebuilt.
On the mill site on Herring Creek, at Seaford, Solomon Boston put up saw and grist-mills, which be operated until his death, when they passed into the hands of the Williams family. In 1862 the saw-mill was burned, but was rebuilt by Jacob Williams. In 1882 the grist-mill was supplied with roller machinery, but was destroyed by FIRE soon after.
Marshall’s Mill, Milford
On the evening of Saturday, February 20th, 1902 a devastating FIRE broke out in the mill that quickly overwhelmed the Milford Fire Company.
Delaware Lumber Company Mill at Selbyville, Del.,
May 2, 1916 -- FIRE, supposed to have started from a spark from the smokestack of the Delaware Lumber Company at Selbyville, Del., totally destroyed the mill and contents this evening. The FIRE started between 6 and 7 o’clock and continued burning until nearly 10 o’clock.
Red Mill, between Millsboro and Lewes
Arthur B. Sharp purchased the mill in early January, 1927. Less than two months later, on the morning of February 26th, 1927, a FIRE destroyed the mill. Damage was estimated to be about $15,000, but insurance only covered about $10,000. The fire was reported by Mr. Sharp but by the time the Lewes Fire Co. arrived it was too late to save the mill. The fire company did save three nearby homes, including that of Mr. Sharp.
On January 29th, 1928, Arthur Sharp was arrested and charged with paying a mill employee, George Moseley, to burn the mill down so that Sharp could collect the $10,300 insurance.
Wagamons’ Mill, Millsboro
The new mill continued to be a commercial success until it burned down in 1943. It was replaced by the Diamond State Roller Mills plant, which operated from 1946 to 1958.
These have been the mill FIRES that I have been able to find reference to, but I have no doubt that there were many others.