Lightning Strikes SWAU Radio Station
Electrical Fire takes KJCR FM off the air

n September 3, lightning struck the campus radio station at Southwestern Adventist University in Keene, Texas. The resulting fire took the radio station off the air for 26 hours. KJCR FM station manager Randy Yates was working late in his office. "I could feel the pop under my feet when the lightning struck, and then my computer went down and some of the lights went out."

Yates went to check the breaker box, and noticed a wood smoke smell. He then pulled down the attic steps and saw bright orange flames. He quickly left the building and called 911.

The Keene Fire Department, along with fire departments from surrounding towns, sent trucks to the scene. Yates says he explained the situation and the firefighters quickly put out the fire, running a water hose through to the attic.

Keene Fire Marshal Jacob Hopps confirmed that the fire began in the attic from what appeared to be natural causes, most likely lightning. "There was fire and heavy smoke coming from the south gable when we arrived. We were able to push the fire back, and then the Alvarado Fire Department provided horizontal ventilation through the gable, which relieved a lot of the heat and smoke, and allowed us to extinguish the fire."

Most of the damage was to the two on-air booths and one office. Yates estimates that equipment damage was more than $90,000. However, damage to the building has not been assessed.

"I'm thankful that I was here when this happened, because we could have lost the whole building and all of the radio personnel and communication faculty could have lost their entire offices," said Yates.

Currently, the station is operating in makeshift quarters in the station's transmitter building. Yates expressed gratitude for the engineers and computer professionals who helped get the station back on the air so quickly.

                                                   Southwesterner Online with additional reporting from the AR Staff

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