It was a small fire with no injuries, and not the kind of thing for which a newspaper typically stops its presses.
Except that this fire ignited inside the newspaper, right next to those presses.
The Thursday morning fire drastically delayed the day's paper. For several hours, mangers debated whether there would be a newspaper delivered at all.
Ledger-Enquirer President and Publisher Valerie Canepa was adamant, though: If a paper could be delivered, it would be. "Nobody can remember us missing a paper," she said.
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"Readers rely on it," she said, while she wrapped papers in bags for crews to deliver. "We probably got a hundred calls by 7 a.m. The readers count on the paper, and they're desperate for it every day."
The fire began in a small dust-collection room to the side the of the paper's giant presses. The room holds an 8-foot-long machine that combines ribbons and particles of paper into a mass of recyclable paper waste.
A spark of unknown origin ignited the paper dust inside the collector— "Kind of like lint in a cotton mill fire," said Leo Shiver, the newspaper's production manager — at about 5:55 a.m. When sprinklers and fire alarms went off, the presses froze and the building was evacuated until the Columbus Fire Department arrived. Shiver led them in, to the fire.
When they opened the doors to the room, "that thing was red, glowing, and smoke was billowing out of there," Shiver said.
The fire was knocked down in about half an hour, but smoke was thick in parts of the building well into the morning. The collector caught fire once before, about a decade ago, employees said. Shiver ranked the fire a 3 out of 10, in terms of press disasters.
About 6,000 copies of the paper were printed before the fire. Pressmen got a late start on the paper because they had been printing a special, full-color wrap to welcome home Fort Benning troops.
"The paper was going to be late anyway," Canepa said. "But it wasn't going to be five hours late."
The press can run without the dust collector, so once the fire was quelled, presses resumed.
Canepa and newspaper directors quickly formed a plan to get papers into customers' hands, using all available employees to deliver papers — from reporters to division directors, to the publisher herself.
About three dozen folks were pulled from normal duties to get the late paper delivered. Retired reporters Richard Hyatt and Harry Franklin also pitched in.
"We've got celebrities here, doing this," Canepa said.
To read today's edition of the Ledger-Enquirer click here.