Federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are investigating an April 2 transmitter fire at KUAR in Little Rock, Ark., as possible arson. [Two weeks later, the station said it was still operating at 75 percent of its usual power.]
The fire, which crippled the station's signal right before its spring pledge drive, was started by an intruder who stripped copper wiring at the transmitter site, used accelerant to start a blaze, and then put a new padlock on the building to prohibit anyone from entering.
Copper wire theft is "a huge problem for radio stations," according to Ben Fry, g.m.
Fry said he finds it hard to believe that the perpetrator specifically targeted KUAR. The station has not received any threatening voicemails or emails, Fry said. The transmitter and its tower are part of the Shinall Mountain tower farm along with facilities of Little Rock's major broadcasters, he said. "It's difficult to figure out which site is ours. Nothing says our call letters or NPR — there's just an antenna registration number, which would be hard for someone to figure out."
KUAR-FM resumed broadcasts the morning after the blaze on an emergency transmitter. Its 5,000-watt transmitter reaches metropolitan Little Rock and not much farther, Fry said.
KUAR was preparing to relocate its antenna to a different tower this summer and now will to speed up that $180,000 engineering project, Fry said.
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Derogatory remarks about conservatives by an NPR fundraiser were cited in an AP report about the fire and vandalism the day before at a pubradio station in Texarkana, Texas. Investigators did not see connections between the incidents, the story said.
Investigators' dog sniffed fire accelerant at KUAR transmitter site, the station reports.