Police and fire officials are investigating a fire that damaged two offices and sent two executives to the hospital Monday afternoon at the Daily Times on East Harper Avenue.
Publisher Max Crotser and comptroller Danny Williamson were taken by Rural/Metro Ambulance Service personnel to Blount Memorial Hospital where they were treated and released for smoke inhalation.
Maryville Fire Chief Ed Mitchell said the blaze is being investigated by Maryville Police Department and Maryville Fire Department. “As fast moving as the fire was and the fact we had so much involvement so fast, we are looking at it as a possible arson,” he said.
Mitchell said he was driving on West Lamar Alexander Parkway toward downtown and was passing the Home Avenue intersection when the call came.
“I turned toward the direction of the Daily Times building, and the sky had heavy black smoke,” he said. “It looked like we had a fully involved structure with all the black smoke in the sky.”
The chief said when firefighters arrived, flames were rolling over the top of the building and were threatening two offices.
“The fire had actually broke out window and was rolling into the building,” Mitchell said.
The fire quickly spread up into the wooden eaves along the roof. Firefighters quickly began attacking the flames from both inside and outside the building.
“Firefighters found Max, who was still in the building, as well as Danny, who was trying to fight the fire with fire extinguishers, and we had flames rolling across the ceiling,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said one of the sprinklers in Crotser’s office helped extinguish the flames, but the fire was still burning in the eaves of the roof. Firefighters tore away a section of the eaves and doused the flames before they extended to the rest of the roof, he said.
The fire chief said both Crotser and Williamson were treated at the scene before being transported by Rural/Metro Ambulance Service to the hospital. “Max and Danny both had smoke inhalation. We put them on oxygen, checked their vitals and assisted Rural/Metro in packaging them and sending them to the hospital,” Mitchell said.
The fire chief said 24 firefighters with four engines and a service truck responded to the 3:20 p.m. fire in 2 minutes and 20 seconds and had the fire controlled within five minutes. They doused hot spots for 45 minutes to an hour and were on the scene for a total of about two hours. “The firefighters did an excellent job getting in getting there and attacking this thing, and they reduced damage while they were fighting the fire,” he said. “We had firefighters putting tarps over big rolls of paper to protect it from water.”
The newspaper brought in Carver Electric to isolate the electrical damage and get power to the newsroom and the pressroom so that production could resume.