Firefighters last night battled to put out a blaze which sent cyanide fumes sweeping through a historic weekly newspaper office in Sussex.
Two journalists were at work at the Horsham headquarters of the West Sussex County Times when fire broke out in an area of the editorial department shortly before 7pm.
The pair alerted the fire brigade which managed to prevent the fire spreading to the rest of the Market Square building, the newspaper’s home for the past 150 years.
An electrical fault is thought to have been the cause of the blaze which left part of the editorial area gutted.
Editor-in-chief Gary Shipton had been attending a presentation evening at a nearby venue when the incident occurred.
He and other members of the County Times team rushed to the scene as soon as they were alerted to the blaze.
Gary said production of the company’s newspapers would not in anyway be affected by the fire
“It’s business as normal. Our reporting and advertising teams will work from our other neighbouring offices until the damage is repaired,” he said.
Added Gary: “I would like to thank the emergency services for their magnificent response this evening.
“I am obviously enormously relieved that no-one appears to have been injured in the fire.”
Fire Inspection Officer Tim Eady told the newspaper that the fire appeared to have started in a ceiling light fitting.
“The fire debris from the light fitting has fallen down onto the floor and onto the chair below, igniting the chair. This then spread to the computer on the desk next to it,” he said.
Although the fire was contained to the editorial area a number of rooms in the offices suffered smoke damage, including the main entrance and stairs and photographic department.
Mr Eady added: “Most people seem to dismiss smoke damage and think it’s less serious. In this case it was toxic because of the plastic, which meant it would have been liberating cyanide and other deadly fumes which are incredibly harmful.”