By John McCaslin
Rappahannock News staff
A multi-alarm fire discovered late Saturday night that burned well into Sunday evening has destroyed the Communications Corporation of America (CCA) printing plant just over the Rappahannock County line in Boston.
The good news, the Rappahannock News has learned, is that plans are already underway to rebuild while keeping the CCA’s 300-plus employees working in the process.
More than 200 firefighters from nearly three-dozen responding fire departments, including every volunteer company in Rappahannock, battled what at times resembled a raging inferno against a darkened sky.
The fire, its cause still under investigation, burned so hot that metal portions of the structure either disintegrated or else melted. Fortunately, no major injuries were reported. All day Sunday a towering plume of smoke was visible from dozens of miles away. Rappahannock County realtor Trish Bartholomew said she smelled the smoke on Skyline Drive.
“It’s gone, nothing left,” said one downcast CCA employee, his head lowered to the ground as he walked through thick smoke back to his car Sunday morning.
But in an interview Monday morning ahead of a workforce meeting in Culpeper, the CCA’s owner and president Steven Fisher told the Rappahannock News that he and his team were already “working on a strategy towards getting everything replaced” and reopening the plant.
“The good news is we have a lot of money through our insurance company,” Fisher disclosed, adding that the CCA’s hundreds of employees could “be retained” during the rebuilding process via a “government” safety net.
“That’s my first bit of good news,” he said, “retaining our people.”
Fisher pointed out that “millions of dollars worth of equipment has been destroyed” by the fire that will also need to be replaced. He planned to inspect what remains of the CCA plant later today [Monday].
“Did you see the black plume of smoke?” he asked, his voice still echoing disbelief. “It was just awful. It resembled a dark cloud. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.”
The CCA and the picturesque Longlea Conference Center, a Catholic Church retreat, share the same brick entrance off of Sperryville Pike Route 522. Instead of an industrial setting, what remains of the plant is surrounded by rolling green hills where privileged hunting has taken place.
According to a Bloomberg business profile, the CCA is “a direct mail production facility [that] specializes in continuous form printing, data processing, personalization, finishing, and mail processing. The company offers specialty work, such as embossed and thermal plastic cards, notepads, address labels, and carbonless form impact printing. It offers direct mail services to clients in the United States and internationally.”
A national Republican Party consultant, who had visited the CCA on several occasions, tells this newspaper “the plant was basically a print and letter production shop for direct mail conservative causes — RNC [Republican National Committee], NRSC [National Republican Senatorial Committee], NRA [National Rifle Association] . . .
“Have done a lot of work there and known the Fisher family for 25 years,” he said, “and a dear friend of mine works there . . . what a shock to read this.”
The CCA was founded by Steven’s father, John Morris Fisher, who was well known in White House, congressional, military and academic circles. He advised several U.S. presidents, and most notably won the praise of President Ronald Reagan.
“My idol,” Steven Fisher told the News on Monday.
The elder Fisher, who died at age of 90 in 2013 and is buried in Culpeper, was a decorated World War II veteran and former FBI special agent. He left the bureau in 1953 to become National Director for Security with Sears, Roebuck and Co. Two years later he became founder and president of the American Security Council.
In 1971, his obituary in the Washington Post stated, he founded CCA and served as its chairman until his death while his son, as the president, ran day-to-day operations. Locally, Fisher was president of the Culpeper Hospital Foundation.
But he is perhaps best known nationally for developing the National Strategy of Peace Through Strength.
“To help accomplish this, he organized the Bipartisan Coalition for Peace Through Strength,” the obituary noted. “This coalition grew to include 231 congressmen, 42 senators, and 20 governors from both parties; 169 national organizations; 514 colleges and universities; 3500 member companies; more than 2500 admirals and generals; and more than 350,000 individual members,” the obituary states.
“He also worked closely with all presidents from Dwight D. Eisenhower to George H.W. Bush on national security matters.”
President Reagan observed of Fisher: “As an early member of the coalition . . . I supported your resolution for a Peace Through Strength strategy, and it was incorporated as a part of the 1980 Republican Platform [when Reagan was first elected president].
“Quietly and effectively, your coalition,” said Reagan, “has made a great contribution toward restoring the credibility of America’s defenses. Your work on Capitol Hill and with the public at large has been a principal factor in returning America to the days when she was militarily strong and morally principled.”