Below is a story written by George Emmett of what he went through and witnessed during and after the Marshall Fire.
Some of you may know that there is a radio station in Louisville in Boulder County. I wondered if the station had been impacted by the catastrophic Marshall Fire in Boulder County on December 30. I contacted George Emmett at KLEP and he replied back with the following information.
We had no significant damage that we can determine so far. First, here is some background information. 95.3 FM KLEP-LP is a Low Power FM radio station licensed to the City of Louisville as authorized under 47 CFR Part 73, Section G. The specific rule authorizing our Public Safety radio station is 73.853(a)(2). The ERP of KLEP is 100 Watts Horizontal and 100 Watts Vertical. Essentially all of Louisville is within the 60dB Contour.
KLEP first went on air September 22, 2017, running under Automatic Program Test Authority and received its Grant of the Cover to License on October 5, 2017. KLEP is operated by the Louisville Police Department and airs Public Safety Information 24 hours a day every day. Chief of Police Dave Hayes and myself paired up as a team to complete the Construction Permit of KLEP after the previous Police Chief retired. The FCC Construction Permit for KLEP was applied for during the second Open Filing Window for LPFM stations in 2013 before Chief Hayes and I were involved. We also had some gracious assistance from Cris Alexander at Crawford Broadcasting.
I am a long time SMPTE member, now a Life Member, and a former Manager of the Rocky Mountain Section, and still active in our SMPTE-SBE48 Denver area group. My wife and I have lived in Louisville for almost 35 years.
The catastrophic Marshall Fire occurred on Thursday, December 30, 2021. Amazingly KLEP sustained no known damage to the “Studio/Control Point” located in the Louisville Police Building and no known damage to the Transmitter Site in a different part of the city. I was at the Police Building when the fire started, and eventually, we did lose power in the Police Building. Not too long after that, Chief Hayes told the three of us left in the building to evacuate from the building. I left the building in a cloud of swirling smoke and smoke dust with fires all around the general area. On the north side of the Police Building across the street, the terrain slope increases, running all the way to the flat top of Davidson Mesa. That slope area was built with many two and three story large houses. The fire had not reached those houses when I evacuated from the Police Building.
The next morning when I went to check on the condition of the building and the KLEP Studio/Control Point inside, I was stunned to see all of the houses were gone except one lonesome and lost looking house. All had burned into a pile of ashes … many, many, many houses … all there the day before. There was no apparent damage to the Police Building but piles of dirty smokey particles and fine dust in drift piles against the building several inches high. The double set of lobby doors into the building at two locations were also both filled with a couple of inches of the dirty particles and dust in a similar drift pattern. The winds were so strong and sustained that it blew that much dirty particles through the tiny spaces around the doors. Inside the building there appeared to be a dirty fine dust on everything.
The KLEP Transmitter Site never lost power and an automatic start audio loop begin running on air when the STL transport stream was lost. Xcel Energy restored the electrical power to the Police Building on Saturday morning according to one of our equipment logs. All air chain equipment did come up, air audio started automatically as configured, and all readings of every piece of equipment in the air chain continue showing normal readings and remain stable.
At our house in Louisville, we never lost electrical power or had the gas service turned off. Our neighborhood apparently is in the only area in the city that was untouched by the wildfire except for a smokey smell. We are so grateful for no significant damage to our house of many years. We did have to evacuate on the afternoon of the fire and spent one night away from home at one of our son’s house in another part of Boulder County.
If you are outside of the limited coverage range 95.3 FM KLEP, you might take a listen to the station’s Web stream at:
KLEP has some special information on the Web stream that is different from the station air audio due to the aftermath of the Marshall Fire catastrophe. Normally the on air and Web stream have the same audio. Also, there are two other lower power radio stations in the Denver region that also broadcast on 95.3 FM which can get confusing for listeners as they get into a signal overlap area.