` The fire that destroyed the home of several Malta businesses has been ruled accidental, and planning for the future of those businesses is moving forward.
“We have turned our living room into a newsroom for at least the next couple of days, at least to get this week’s paper out,” said Curtis Starr, the owner of the Phillips County News.
He said he and the other businesses are working out temporary locations for their operations until a permanent home can be built.
A fire early Wednesday morning on main street destroyed the nearly 100-year old building in Malta that housed the newspaper, along with several other businesses.
The Office of the State Fire Marshall has concluded the blaze was an accidental fire of unknown origin, the state attorney general's office said in a press release.
The adjoining businesses also are shut down, until the structural safety of their buildings can be assessed.
Starr said that, the problems caused to the Mint Bar and the Family Matters clothing store, is one of the most frustrating parts of dealing with the fire.
“(It’s) the inconvenience it has caused our neighbors … ,” he said. “It affects a lot of people in addition to the people actually in the building.”
Starr said he has arranged a temporary location into which to move the newspaper, and he believes the owners of the other businesses are doing the same.
“The sun’s come out, the temperatures are up, some of the farmers finally getting into some of the fields, so things are finally turning around,” he said.
If the insurance comes through as he expects it will to pay for the damage to the building, Starr said, he plans to have a new building erected on the same site. Most of the owners of the businesses that leased space there have indicated they would like to come back to the new building once completed, he said.
Because of the time of year, he doubts that anything could be done to construct the new building until next year, Starr added.
Until then, he said, he is leasing space in the old Malta Plumbing building to operate the newspaper. The owners of that building have been clearing space, and he expects to move in later this week, he said.
Several groups have come through to help the paper produce its editions, including Montana Newspaper Association President John Barrows bringing up several computers last week. That included some computers Barrows had on hand and one loaned from the Lewistown News -Argus.
He said the Malta schools also stepped up with some newly refurbished computers the district was not using.
“We’re in pretty good shape that way,” he said.
Starr said the other businesses that lost their space also are finding new locations.
Sue’s Stylette beauty salon already has opened in a new location, next to the State Farm Insurance location in Malta, just across the alley from where the news office will move.
“Were going to be neighbors again,” Starr said.
He said he understands that the appliance store that had been in the newspaper building is looking at several options for an at-least temporary location.
Starr said he has offered a space in the plumbing building where the Phillips County News will locate to house the Three Sisters variety store. He has not yet heard if the owner has decided to move there, he said.
Until the new locations are up and running, and plans are made for a permanent building, Starr said, it is just a matter of moving forward and recovering.
“We’re dealing with all the odds and ends and the insurance and things you end up remembering you don’t have,” he said.