[JPL] (another) Arson blamed in radio fire

Susan Reeves susan at susanreeves.net
Mon Feb 4 09:04:39 EST 2008



		Published: Feb 04, 2008 07:45 AM	
	http://www.newsobserver.com/news/crime_safety/story/921682.html	 

	Arson blamed in radio fire	Co-owner says blaze may have been set to cover up burglary at Morganton station

	By MARK PRICE, The Charlotte Observer
CHARLOTTE - Arson is being blamed for the Friday fire that destroyed a
Morganton radio station that was home to one of the industry's top
Southern gospel radio personalities.

John Whisnant Jr., a three-time
winner of Southern Gospel DJ of the Year award, says investigators told
him the fire was possibly set to cover up a burglary at WCIS-AM (760).

A charred foundation and two walls are all that remain at the site, which was insured, he says.

"The
building was ransacked, with drawers pulled out of file cabinets and
desks," says Whisnant, who is co-owner with his father, John Sr., and
brother, Jeff.

"Whoever did it was looking for cash. When they
didn't find what they were looking for, they torched the place. It's
heartbreaking. Fifteen years of work up in flames."

Burke County fire officials could not be reached Sunday.

News
of the fire has become the talk of the Southern gospel music industry
nationwide, due to postings on popular Web sites like Singingnews.com. and Sogospelnews.com.

As a result, offers of financial assistance have come from radio stations across the United States and Canada, Whisnant says.

"You
don't realize how many friends you've got until something like this
happens," Whisnant says. "My brother and I were talking about how easy
it would be to quit. ... But we've come to realize it means so much to
the community."

Burke County Emergency Services responded to the fire on Bost Road at 2:30 a.m. Friday and had it contained by 5:15 a.m.

A
cost assessment has not yet been done, but the building itself was
valued at about $119,000, Whisnant says. The family purchased the
station in 1993, and broadcast music seven days a week, from dusk to
dawn.

The building was also home to The Whisnants, a popular Southern gospel group that lost 3,000 CDs and DVDs in the fire.

The goal now, Whisnant says, is to get the station back on as quickly as possible, possibly by the end of the month.

In
the meantime, he's keeping a sense of humor. "I always said those
awards I got for DJ of the year would make great kindling and it looks
like I was right." 



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