Kennewick Police Reveal Latest Details in Radio Arson Fire Press Conference
Tuesday, Kennewick police held a press conference detailing the latest in formation into the arson fire that knocked several radio stations off the air.
Mike Blatman of the Kennewick police department said Detective John Davis is leading the investigation. He also said whoever set the fire is facing possible federal charges, because interfering with the transmission and broadcast of radio, television or other public media in such a manner is a federal offense. The FCC tends to frown on such activities, to say the least.
Officials say some of the graffiti at the site is fresh, in the last few days. They don't know if the tagging is directly related to the fire. There were no surveillance cameras at the site, so no video footage available. Police said there's been graffiti on those buildings off and on for 40 years. Some of the latest tagging was in memory of Aaron Wright, who was fatally shot by police after leading them on a city-wide chase in June. The shooting was later justified after an investigation.
Broadcast engineers from every other radio group are at the site, doing cleanup and damage assessment. The transmitter for 1340 AM was destroyed, and another one will not arrive for several days. Besides two FM stations belonging to Radio Tri-Cities being affected (they are now back on the air at low power) Christian station KGDN FM was also affected. Their backup transmitter was located in the building, and was also destroyed.
Whoever set the fire cut through the chain link fence surrounding the transmitter building, and the engineers onsite told me the arsonist actually did them a favor by closing the door behind them when they left. One engineer said by closing the door, the fire exhausted the supply of air inside, and eventually put itself out. Had they left the door open, the entire upper wooden roof and structure of the cinder block building would have burned.
Had that happened, it would have done far more damage to the surrounding relay dishes, wires and structures.
These pictures show how the heat actually melted the meters on the transmitters, the units used to be clean bare metal. You can also see the scorched walls of the now empty structure. All the wiring and infrastructure will have to be replaced. It will take weeks to rebuild it to broadcast capability. In the picture below, the face of the transmitter was silver before it was burned.