KUAR: On-air, but fire mystery remains | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, April 3, 2011

KUAR: On-air, but fire mystery remains

Posted By on Sun, Apr 3, 2011 at 3:18 PM

KUAR, Little Rock's public radio, has managed to get back on the air in some areas with backup transmitter after a damaging weekend fire.

On the jump, a report from the station this morning with more details on the mysterious nature of the fire. The circumstantial evidence makes it sound like anything but an accident.

I should mention that I'll be back asking for money on the station's spring drive later this month. It's going to run a few days shorter than usual. The hope is to match the usual fund-raising with less interruption of programming. So keep that in mind.

FROM KUAR

If you’ve tried to listen to KUAR, visited our website or read the Arkansas Democrat Gazette this morning, you know we have some problems. KUAR’s transmitter building caught fire last night, and the station is off the air. Chief Engineer Tom Rusk and I are working on solutions that should get us back on the air in the next few days. We have a portable standby transmitter. The problem is figuring out the most sensible place to connect it. Here’s what I know so far:

Saturday around 5:30 p.m., the KUAR transmitter went off the air. Nathan Vandiver, who was on duty, notified Tom Rusk, who headed to the transmitter site. Tom arrived just before 6 p.m. to find smoke coming from the building. He also discovered that the padlock on the transmitter building door had been forcibly removed and another lock placed on one of the other padlocks on the door. He did not have his bolt cutters with him so he could not remove the lock. When we discovered the fire, we called 911, and both the Little Rock and Pulaski County Fire Departments arrived on the scene. LRFD was there first, broke the lock and put out the fire. Apparently, the fire was not too hard to put out, but the transmitter and other equipment in the building were severely damaged. Whether any of it can be salvaged is hard to know at this point.

I arrived at the transmitter site after the fire had been put out. In addition to the situation with the locks on the door, we also found that a part of the fence surrounding the transmitter building had been pulled back enough for someone to gain access. As far as we could tell, nothing had been taken from the site. It appeared to Tom and me that two fires had broken out inside the building — one behind the new transmitter (which we had purchased in 2007) and one behind the old transmitter (which was out of service) on the other side of the building. An investigator from LRFD was there and will file a report.

In case this was not a random act, we also reported the incident to the UALR Police and asked them to keep an extra eye on our facility at UALR. KLRE’s transmitter, which is at Metropolitan Vocational School, is fine, and KLRE is operating as usual. We continue to provide KUAR programming through streaming.

KUAR’s transmitter facilities are insured so I will be working with the insurance company this week.

If you’re wondering about the move to the Channel 7 tower, we were waiting to get started with that until after we finished the digital conversion of KLRE. We would still be several weeks from getting the station on the air there, even with the standby transmitter. Our current plan is to go on the air with the standby transmitter at the current site with some kind of temporary building. Any other option for getting KUAR on the air would involve placing another antenna at another site, and I believe would take longer.

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