Fire Damage in Center Estimated at $100,000

Center Publisher Views Ruins---newspaper gutted by fire

        On Wednesday night, March 6, 1974, fire destroyed The Champion, Center's weekly newspaper and White Auto Store.  The entire east side of the courthouse square, at one time, was threatened.
        Asst. Fire Chief Fred Baugh said the fire broke out about 5 p.m. in the rear of the appliance store shortly after it closed for business. He said no one was inside the store at the time.  However, he said, employees at The Champion next door were still at work and reported hearing an explosion prior to seeing smoke coming from the rear of the store. Fireman said the cause of the fire was undetermined.  Curtis Sims, deputy state fire marshal, was in Center Thursday investigation the fire.
        Baugh said there were no injuries in the fire except for a few minor scratches sustained by firemen.  He said the blaze shot upward to about 30 feet from the roof of the building.
        The two firms are located in one building and there was no firewall between them, Baugh said.  He said the Matthew-Miller Department store received quite a lot of water damage.
        Bill Gaines, owner of the appliance of the store, would not estimate Thursday afternoon the damage his building sustained, however, Bob Pinkston, editor of The Champion, said his damage would run about $50,000.  He said most of the damage to the newspaper was in the backshop. He said one of the linotype machines destroyed in the blaze was valued at more than $30,000.
        Mr. Pinkston said everything was destroyed except for some bounds files dating back to early 1900's.  He said the newspaper, established in 1877, will be printed at Nacogdoches until a new permanent office is established at Center.  He said temporary quarters have been acquired up to the street from its present location.
        Firemen said a few lawn mowers and a cash register were saved from the appliance store.  Baugh said they were located in front of the building. Baugh said smoke was terrific all over town as firemen fought the blaze.

Edited from the Shreveport Times, March 8, 1974.