Carlisle journalist Rich Lewis once worked at WIOO radio in Carlisle.
“I worked there from 1985 to 1987. At that time, we did a full hour of local news at noon, plus news at the top of every hour, then another hour of news at five o’clock at night,” he recalled Monday night.
“There were two of us in the newsroom and depending on the shift, one or the other of us anchored the news hour. We were one of the last radio stations in the country to be doing live, local, hour-long radio broadcasts,” he explained.
“(Owner) Hal Swidler was committed to local news and he frankly thought it was worth the money,” he added.
The locally owned radio station, a fixture in Carlisle for more than 45 years and currently broadcasting as WI00 Country Gold, was knocked off the air Monday afternoon when flames and smoke ripped through its facility at 180 York Road.
South Middleton Township firefighters were dispatched about 1:38 p.m.
The damage was caused by an electrical fire in the first-floor ceiling, according to John Bruetsch, chief public information officer for the Cumberland County Department of Public Safety.
Bruetsch noted that the fire did not seem suspicious.
“The fire was reported by a passerby on York Road who saw smoke, and the radio station was running on auto pilot for the holiday weekend with no one inside,” Bruetsch said.
Every window in the building was broken out and firefighters ripped a sizable hole in the exterior wall in their attempts to control the flames.
“Sixty to seventy firefighters (were) on the scene and they were able to get the fire under control in about 10 minutes,” Bruetsch said.
There were no injuries reported due to the blaze, Bruetsch said.
The station serves all of Cumberland and Franklin Counties and portions of Perry, Dauphin, Adams and York Counties.
It was unclear at press time Monday night how long the radio station would be out or whether its sister station in Shippensburg would be affected. No one directly involved in station management could be reached for comment.
Rick Smith, a current radio personality for WIOO, had not yet heard the news when contacted by The Sentinel Monday evening.
“You’re kidding me,” he repeated over and over.
His syndicated program has been on WIOO for just over a year after moving from WHYL. Part of the reason for the switch was that WIOO allowed Smith to make his program a daily, he said.
“I’m just absolutely shocked. Wow. Wow,” he said.
Because the building for WIOO was a converted house, with rooms made over into studios, that made for an interesting work place, Lewis recalled.
“What was poignant to me was, when I saw the film of the fire on the television news, a firefighter was climbing out a second-floor window. That was the newsroom. I used to look out from there to my local weather station, which was a thermometer,” he laughed.
He also for a time had a bird feeder, but Swidler objected and Lewis took it down.
“It was sad to see that window broken out and a fireman climbing out the window,” Lewis said. “I really enjoyed my time there. There was a very good crew there at the time.”
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Because the station was so small, “Everyone there did everything,” Lewis recalled. “You worked the board and ran the sports shows. We all did ‘Tradeo.’”
A WIOO innovation, “Tradeo on the Radio” is an opportunity for people to call in with things they want to buy, sell, trade or give away.
“That was always fun,” Lewis said.
“Carlisle has two radio stations, WHYL and WIOO, which is extraordinary for a town our size,” continued Lewis, who now teaches journalism and public speaking at Dickinson College and writes a weekly column for The Sentinel.
“It is unlikely that radio stations are going to be opening up again. It’s sad to see one threatened. I have no doubt they’ll get back on the air.”
Sentinel reporter Allison Hagerman contributed to this story.
-Posted at 12:10 a.m.
John Bruetsch, chief public information officer for the Cumberland County Department of Public Safety, said it was definitely an electrical fire that broke out at WIOO radio on York Road earlier this afternoon.
Bruetsch said that the fire started in the first floor ceiling and that no one was injured in the blaze.
Posted at 3:15 p.m. on Cumberlink:
John Bruetsch, chief public information officer for Cumberland County Department of Public Safety said it was a possible electrical fire and the fire marshal is investigating presently.
Bruetsch said there was no one in the building and a passerby saw smoke and called it in. The building sustained heavy damage top to bottom and no fire fighters were injured. A total of 60-70 fire fighters were on the scene and put the fire out in about 10 minutes.
Posted at 2:24 p.m. on Cumberlink:
The reporter says he was told the press will be briefed by 2:35 p.m. on the fire.
Posted at 2:10 p.m. on Cumberlink:
Sentinel reporter Matt Ciccocioppo is at the scene of the fire and says every window in the building at 180 York Road is broken and there are still some small flames on the second floor. The building houses the offices for WIOO Country Gold Radio.
The reporter said there are ladders to the second floor and they are using chainsaws to cut something. The house is still smoking but only slightly.
Posted at 1:38 p.m. on Cumberlink:
Emergency crews have been called to the scene of a house fire at 180 York Road in South Middleton Township at 1:35 p.m.
The address for 180 York Road is the location for WIOO Country Gold Radio.
Fire police have closed off York Road near Office Max.
Check back to Cumberlink for details as they become available.