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It’s hero time for KPFZ-FM, Lake County community radio

KPFZ 88.1 FMA letter in the Ukiah Daily Journal praises Lakeport community station KPFZ-FM for suspending its regular schedule and going to 24/7 live coverage of the area’s gigantic fire:

“the programming focus shifted almost immediately when news of the fire took hold and for the most part, regular programming has been side-lined for the primary purpose of making sure the latest information is available to victims, their families and friends — and anyone who wants to help or is interested in keeping up with the latest information from official reporting agencies.”

The Valley Fire has now been declared the number three worst conflagration in California history. Almost 1,800 structures have been destroyed across 75,000 acres. KPFZ’s website is covered with alerts and updates about the situation.

The San Jose Mercury News has noted KPFZ’s dogged on-air assistance, publishing an account of the station’s live coverage:

“Hi, this is Rick from Seventh-day Adventist on Park Avenue,” said the caller from one of the evacuation centers in Lakeport last week. “We could use kitchen workers — for the last four days, they’ve been working their tails off. The other thing that came up was luncheon meats, turkey or chicken — and belts. We have many pants but few belts. Is it OK that I ask?”

“That’s why we’re here,” said Andy Weiss, who on a normal day hosts “Pagan World Views” but was fiddling with the sound board one morning last week to answer the on-air call-in line instead.

If you want to know more about KPFZ, the station has published an entertaining history of itself. It notes that the operation began 20 years ago when a small group of “aficionados” gathered in Clearlake Oaks to discuss the possibility of a non-commercial signal. Apparently they mapped out their initial plans around a wood stove. “Had they known what lay ahead,” the narrative continues, “the difficulties, the obstacles, the David vs. Goliath odds, the various incarnations – they might have been better off adjourning to a warm pub and forgetting their plans.”

I wonder how many community radio stations share a similar creation story. In any event, thanks to the naïveté of those founders, the people of Lake County have a radio outlet that they can count on even during the worst emergencies. I’m glad the aforementioned aficionados stayed away from that nice cozy pub; bet lots of other people are, too.

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