W. Memphis, Ark., Newspaper Building Destroyed by Blaze

August 15, 2006

A blaze that destroyed The Evening Times building in West Memphis, Ark., and all its equipment – including the printing press, computer system and all advertising and news files – won’t keep the staff from doing “everything in the world we can” to continue publishing normally, editor Mike Bowie says.

The building and its contents were a total loss after the early morning fire Sunday, Aug. 13, Bowie said.

“They’re still over there putting out hot spots” in what remains, he said Sunday evening.

Monday’s edition was to be printed at a plant across the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tenn., Bowie said.

Officials don’t yet know what caused the blaze, which began at about 5:30 a.m. in the one-story, concrete-block-and-brick building, Bowie said. It burned for several hours, and firefighters didn’t get it out until late in the morning.

Bowie said the building’s roof collapsed.

Publisher Alex Coulter estimated the fire loss at between $5 million and $7 million. Everything but the newsprint warehouse and the mailroom operation were destroyed, Coulter said.

The afternoon newspaper has been in operation since 1957. The Crittenden County Times, which began in 1931, later merged into the Evening Times.

The paper publishes Monday through Friday, with a circulation of about 8,000, Bowie said. The paper has a second office in nearby Marion, from which they will temporarily work. Bowie said arrangements had been made to print Monday’s edition at the Daily News, a small, independent paper in Memphis.

Bowie said an alarm inside the building automatically directed a telephone call to a newspaper employee, Pam Coulter, who lives nearby. He said she got out of bed and went quickly to the building, saw flames through a window, and called the Fire Department.

When firefighters arrived, he said, she unlocked exterior doors for them, and then went in herself in an effort to rescue the paper’s computer server.

“The smoke was too bad, and they made her get back outside,” Bowie said. “I got there about quarter to six, and fire was coming out through the roof by that time already.”

According to Bowie, firefighters eventually had to work to keep the flames from spreading to two other nearby buildings, and they succeeded.

“The main thing is, no one was hurt,” he said.

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