When Fire Strikes, Residents Turn to Community Radio

There’s only one community radio station in Lake County, California: KPFZ.  The station is run almost entirely by volunteers, and in recent years, the station has taken on a whole new role in the community: reporting on fires.

Whenever there’s a fire, KPFZ goes to a live call-in format. Hosts of the station’s various programs come in to take turns on the air. In addition to trying to answer callers’ questions and broadcasting observations of what people are seeing, the hosts also relay information from officials, like local county supervisors and Cal Fire.

Like in much of rural America, local media has taken a financial hit since the rise of the internet. During the fires “people had no other resource,” Cawn said. “They discovered KPFZ on the radio, and they were so grateful that there was someplace that was providing timely updates.”

After fires, community members have been asking for the radio station’s address to send in donations. The station isn’t asking for it, but people wanted to send money because they knew the operation was being run on a tiny budget. “Our last thought is making money,” Weiss said. “It’s making radio. That’s first and foremost.”

(courtesy of KQED)