Monday, June 20, 2011
A massive fire in Downtown Ellsworth has destroyed the town's newspaper building, but employees are coming together to get this week's edition out no matter what. The smoke from the blaze could be seen for miles, coming from the downtown district that was built in 1913.
The fire started in the back of the Ellsworth Independent-Reporter Newspaper. The entire building was gutted.
"From my house, it looked like the whole block was on fire, so I really thought it was going to be much worse," said Ellsworth Mayor Steve Bahan.
Crowds of people flocked to Downtown Ellsworth to see what was going on. By night's end, the city's weekly newspaper business was destroyed.
"Very disappointing, because we have a good weekly newspaper," said Ellsworth resident Pat Bender. "That's how we keep track of what's going on in town."
"This is part of the historic district," said Mayor Bahan. "I hope the wall can be saved and preserved, but if it can't, thank God nobody was hurt."
Today, however, the newspaper's publisher is determined to get a paper out. Employees gathered at the high school journalism classroom. Two reporters from the Great Bend paper even came to help.
"I guess maybe it's just part of the job, but it never occurred to us that we wouldn't have a paper," explained Linda Mowry-Denning, the paper's publisher. "Even when the flames were coming out the top of the building, it never occurred to us that we wouldn't be putting out a paper."
The Ellsworth downtown district is nearly 100 years old. much of the old construction makes it easy for fires to spread quickly.
"All of them are common wall," said Fire Chief Bob Kempka. "They do have fire doors in them, but a lot of the old remodels has defeated some of the firewall stuff and that is the biggest concern. When you get one going, they can all take off."
Fire crews from six towns fought the fire well into the overnight hours. The fire marshal will be on scene for quite some time trying to figure out what started the blaze.