Our house is one canyon over from Topanga. For a week now we have lived on the edge of the big fires in Southern California. The Hill Fire started less than 2 miles from us, the Woolsley Fire started five miles from our house. Our only advantage? We are upwind from both.
The fires were driven by the Santa Ana winds. They blow in from the desert this time of the year and they blow long and hard. Until late yesterday the Santa Ana was blowing 25-30 miles an hour with gusts as high as 50. Imagine that kind of wind lasting for days, six days to be exact. Then add fire.
The fires started a week ago, Last Friday we lost power, no power, no cable, no internet. Then we lost cell service. Complete digital isolation, we were in the dark.
I dug out an old boombox, unused for years. I put new batteries in it and the little red light on the front lit up. I dialed around, lots of music on FM. I switched to AM and found what I was looking for. News. News about the fires.
KNX and KFI gave me what I needed and I assume they were doing the same for tens of thousands of other people in SoCal.
KNX teamed up with KCBS TV and KCAL 9, effectively tripling their coverage ability, KFI did the same with Channel 4. KFI dumped all their paid and syndicated programming for the weekend and got out of politics, they concentrated on the fires. Both stations did a superb job. It seemed to me as a listener they had people everywhere, constant updates, traffic and weather. They covered and carried news conferences, community meetings. The actualities were outstanding. The stations would cut live to a reporter in a helicopter describing the inferno below.
The anchors and reporters on both stations were filled with emotion and energy, they asked good questions and the pictures they painted with their words were vivid and true. The worked almost around the clock and never stumbled. They did their jobs and the stations fulfilled their obligation to the community. It was radio doing what radio does best.
KNX and KFI did what radio has always done during times like this, they were the voices of Southern California.
The fires were far from containment on Monday, but KFI went back to its regular programming, they still did excellent news coverage, but the local shows started back on politics, the politics of the fire and the syndication was back as well.
KNX continued, they focused on the fires, the disruption and the destruction.
As I said, we were upwind of the fire, then on Monday morning, I looked out my office window and saw smoke. I went outside, the sky was dark. I turned up KNX. I found out I was downwind from a fire that had broken out a few miles from me. It was moving fast. I heard helicopters in the air.
A KNX reporter was on the scene. He described the situation. The freeway was jammed with cars, the fire was burning rapidly up to the highway. I heard a play by play of a water drop right on the roadway, then another. There were teams of firefighters nearby. The firefighters moved in, then the wind dropped. The water drops by helicopters continued along the road, then moved to a nearby suburban neighborhood. Within three hours the fire was killed. The freeway was reopened, and small mop op operations continued the rest of the afternoon. My tension broke with the news. I was relieved.
Reflecting on the past few days, I think about what it would have been like for us without KNX and KFI to rely on. Our “wired” world was out of commission. No cable, no internet, no cell phone, no electricity to power them anyway. I did find a working phone cell a few blocks away, I did hump down there a few times to update family and friends on how we were doing.
Back at our old house up in the canyon, we were as isolated as we would have been when the house was new, 96 years ago. We have gas for cooking, we have camping lanterns, we keep plenty of batteries on hand. And we had the old boombox and we had good old AM radio doing what it’s always done in times of emergency. KFI and KNX helped in more ways than they may know.
Good job KNX and KFI AM radio. Thank you.