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KJFP(LP) Narrowly Escapes the Vineyard Fire

GM recounts last the damage and recovery efforts

HOT SPRINGS, S.D. — A low-power FM station licensed to Joy Community Fellowship in Hot Springs, S.D., had a close call Aug. 12, when the Vineyard Fire threatened its tower and radio shed.

Via email, KJFP(LP) General Manager Pastor Bill Martin told friends that “Sunday was a drainer.” No small wonder — inaccurate information and evacuation orders added to the stress anyone would experience if fire raged near their home and place of work, which for Martin is one and the same.

The bad news started rolling in around mid-day. KJFP, which broadcasts on 92.7 MHz, had been knocked off the air around the same time that a “slurry bomber” unloaded at the tower site. This drew the incorrect conclusion that the plane had taken down the tower, which was not visible due to the smoke.

A few hours later, Martin was told the transmitter building had been destroyed by the wildfire. In fact, the fire came within 15 feet of the structure — taking out a nearby trailer, Martin reports.

After all the bad news, Martin was able to investigate the scene himself around sunset when evacuation orders were lifted. He said it was “a thrill… to see the tower still standing and the radio shed in place.” Both were coated in the red-pink slurry that doused the fire.

Upon closer inspection, Martin learned that the building’s AC power had been “interrupted” when the fire “melted a circuit line outside.” He was able to correct the short and switch on the breaker, which returned the electricity to the transmitter building. Martin also had to replace a vent fan in the transmitter.

Martin says he was able to get KJFP back on the air after about 18 hours, at 5:35 a.m. He reports “all is well with the station.”