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Six Nations weekly puts out paper despite fire that damaged newsroom

Staff at a newspaper on the Six Nations of the Grand River lost part of their newsroom and a number of their work computers in a fire, but that didn’t stop them from getting the latest issue of the paper to the printers on time.

Lynda Powless learned of the fire after the building’s security alarm was triggered. (Turtle Island News/Jim C Powless)

Staff at a newspaper on the Six Nations of the Grand River lost part of their newsroom and a number of their work computers in a fire, but that didn’t stop them from getting the latest issue of the paper to the printers on time.

The main office of Turtle Island News caught fire early Monday, according to owner and editor Lynda Powless, who said she believes the fire started after a pickup truck burst into flames beside the building.

But despite the damage, Powless confirmed Tuesday evening the latest issue of the weekly newspaper had been sent to the printers. She said her staff was “determined that no matter what” that they get the paper out despite the fire.

The paper’s owner said she received a call from a security company around 5 a.m. saying the alarm at the building had been triggered. When Powless arrived at the office just 10 minutes later police and fire firefighters were already on scene.

Six Nations Police confirmed Tuesday that they had responded to a structure fire at the newspaper’s office on Monday morning. 

Acting Staff Sgt. Derrick Anderson of the Six Nations Police said officers are still working to determine whether the fire was started by the truck. Investigators are trying to locate the owner of the vehicle.

Police would not discuss whether the fire was deliberately set, as the investigation is currently ongoing. 

Pictures from the scene — taken after the fire was put out — by a Turtle Island News photographer, show the scorched pickup truck parked beside the building, the north wall black and charred. 

This picture shows the damage done to the truck and the building, after the fire was put out. (Turtle Island News/Jim C Powless)

The paper’s photography and tech rooms were lost in the fire, Powless said, and a number of computers used by reporters were badly damaged by water that was used to put out the flames.

There has been an “outpouring” of community support for the newspaper after the fire and Powless said staff are working hard to clean up and get things back to normal.

“We’re still trying to operate while we’ve got people in doing cleaning,” she said, but noted the paper will have “difficulties getting things done” in the coming weeks.

“We’re a First Nations paper and resources don’t come easy.”

Powless hopes to have half of the building cleaned by the end of Wednesday, so some employees can be moved back in. She estimates the cleanup and repairs to the ceilings and walls will take a few weeks.

She also said staff are “working hard to salvage” a trick-or-treat Halloween event the newspaper had planned for the children of the community, called The Halloween Haunted Porch.

The truck was parked directly beside the building. (Turtle Island News/Jim C Powless)

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