In Point Reyes, All Ears Stay Glued to Local Radio

"We know that people totally rely on the radio," said Amanda Eichstaedt, general manager of KWMR, the local public radio station that serves Point Reyes, California. In this territory, where cellphones are spotty on a good day, the danger of deadly wildfire is ever present.

Since fire broke out here after an afternoon lightening strike on Aug. 18, Eichstaedt has turned the one-studio station into a vital source of information for the remote outpost and the rural towns that surround it. In a place where local news is otherwise a once-weekly paper or a conversation at the post office or local market, the radio station has long been a trusted source of knowledge when emergencies hit.

Across California, stations like KWMR fill a vital vacuum during crises, especially fast-moving wildfires. With their local knowledge — from where exactly back roads are located to quick access to the fire chief — these broadcasters are increasingly finding themselves to be crucial authorities in the worst moments, when power is out, danger is high and a radio wavelength floating through the air is a lifeline.

Since it was founded in the late 1990s, KWMR has "been a really important part of our community life," said Dewey Livingston, a local historian who has been interviewed on the station many times. "But it is especially noteworthy during times like this ... they are the ones you can go to for information."

(Los Angeles Times)