UPDATE: Fire rips through Ellsworth newspaper building

Posted June 20, 2011

A fire Sunday night destroyed the building housing the Ellsworth County Independent-Reporter and most of the contents -- from computers and desks to morgue files and bound volumes -- were lost.

Linda Mowery-Denning said Monday the newspaper will temporarily be housed at the high school but that another building just a half block away in downtown Ellsworth will be utilized as soon as this week's Independent-Reporter and its sister newspaper, the Marquette Tribune, are published.

The nearly 100-year-old building was engulfed in flames, but the neighboring buildings were spared, Mowery-Denning said.

The fire broke out at approximately 6 p.m. Sunday in the back of the main floor. Building owner Mark Roehrman and his wife, Josie, live in the basement of the building, but escaped unharmed. Their apartment was destroyed.

Fire and emergency crews from as far away as Hays, Great Bend, Lincoln and Russell responded to the blaze.

The Kansas Press Association on Monday afternoon delivered two surplus MacBook Pro computers to the Independent-Reporter staff along with dozens of reporters' notebooks, pens and pencils, law guides, bottled water, adhesive notes, extension cords, coffee mugs and a replacement KPA membership plaque.

Mowery-Denning said it was too early to make a list of needs. Instead, she suggested that gifts be made to the Kansas Newspaper Foundation and directed to an emergency fund to be established for future disasters at newspapers in Kansas.

While the newspaper had insurance, she said the company would have to pay a fairly hefty deductible.

"I just want to get this week's papers out, then sleep for two days," she said.

She credited all the local and area firefighters who contained the blaze, keeping it from spreading to adjacent buildings in the downtown area.

"The entire block could have gone, but they saved it," she said.

She also credited her staff for their determination to get a newspaper out on time under extreme circumstances. Dale Hogg and Mary Hoisington of the Great Bend Tribune, a sister Morris Multimedia property, were on hand to help all day, and Bob Kelly of the Salina Journal was providing technological expertise in an effort to get a network established on the high school's computers.

Earlier this school year, the Independent-Reporter and the high school newspaper developed a collaborative relationship, with the high schoolers teaching I-R staff how to use InDesign and the newspaper staff teaching reporting and editing skills to the students. Because of that cooperative effort, the high school computers had the right software for the staff members to work on their own newspapers.

Mowery-Denning said the newspaper's servers may be salvageable.