Fire knocks out two San Jose radio signals

Fire knocks out two radio signals

October 10, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Two radio stations serving the South Bay's Spanish and Vietnamese speaking communities are still knocked off the air after a stubborn fire burned them down Saturday night.

The fire burned at the back side of the Kellog's Eggo waffle plant. About 40 workers here were evacuated for a time while firefighters worked to put out the fire. The managers for the two radio stations say it seemed like firefighters arrived on the scene pretty quickly, but what they can't understand is why it took so long to put the fire out.

"We have been off the air since yesterday about 5:20ish," said Reyna Santillan, the station manager for KZSF Radio.

That is when a grass fire that started along the freeway spread destroying Vietnamese radio station KSJX's studio and Spanish language KZSF's transmitter. It's the only station in the Bay Area broadcasting Raiders games in Spanish. Crews raced against the clock to build a temporary transmitter in time for Sunday's game since it was blacked out on television.

"Most of the shows are paid shows, so we're losing revenue as we speak," said Santillan.

It is a loss the San Jose firefighter union says that can be blamed on city budget cuts. This past summer, 49 firefighters were laid off and a water engine from a nearby fire station was also on the chopping block.

"Engine and Water Tender 34 are right across this freeway. They would have been first to this fire and maybe they could have kept it to a smaller grass fire," said Jeff Welch, vice president of the firefighters' union.

The charred debris became the backdrop for the latest union press conference announcing an offer to return to the bargaining table. It's the same offer the union has made in the past and the same offer the city says falls $6 million short.

"We're not providing the same level of service, we know that, we want to bring back the firefighters, but we need concessions from the fire union to do it in order to pay for these huge pension increases that are causing us to cut services," said San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.

Frustrated by the lack of details, San Jose Councilman Pierluigi Oliveraio ended up facing off with union bosses.

"The math doesn't add up. The reality is you need so many dollars to bring back those positions and every offer has been dramatically less than that," said Oliveraio.

The two radio stations don't know when they'll be back; for now, they remain silent.

"I think it's a total, total loss. We cannot do anything with our building anymore. We need to build a new one," said Victor Nguyen, operations manager of KSJX.

The San Jose Fire Department does not have an official response time for the fire because the computer system that tracks response times in San Jose is down, but the spokesman for the fire department said with the heavy winds and the dry grass in the area, it took crews more than eight hours to contain the fire.


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