The Boston University student-run radio station WTBU launched the #SaveWTBU fundraising campaign Monday in an effort to rebuild the award-winning station’s workspace after a fire started in the studio Friday, WTBU General Manager Christie Leist stated in an email.
“As far as I know, equipment essential to our ability to broadcast was severely damaged,” wrote Leist, a junior in the College of Communication. “I couldn’t be more upset about how seriously our studio was impacted by the fire. Equipment and materials in our executive board lounge that weren’t burned by flames were damaged by smoke.”
Anne Donohue, WTBU’s staff advisor and a journalism professor in COM, said although she hadn’t gotten a chance to estimate the exact damage because everything in the station was covered with plastic, WTBU received encouragement from the community. The Boston Fire Department, however, estimated $500,000 of damage.
“There were dozens of emails and Facebook messages from former members of WTBU,” Donohue said. “They offered to replace the equipment, donate albums and really just to help WTBU to get back on its feet.”
Donohue said despite minor issues, all equipment functioned before the fire.
“We get replacements now and then when something is not working,” Donohue said.
In a message posted Saturday on the WTBU Facebook page, Donohue stated that the incident was not the first time WTBU underwent crisis. The station was once damaged when its old location, the Myles Standish Hall basement, flooded, Donohue wrote.
“The message is we are here to stay,” Donohue stated. “We have survived this trouble.”
WTBU’s radio station, located on the third floor of the COM building at 640 Commonwealth Ave., caught on fire Friday morning, and approximately 80 to 100 firefighters responded to the three-alarm blaze. Three BU students and one BU Police Department officer were sent to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for smoke inhalation, while one BFD firefighter also sustained a minor injury, The Daily Free Press reported Friday.
BFD spokesperson Steve MacDonald said the investigation concluded that the fire was caused by a short circuit in a WTBU studio, but investigators were unable to locate the exact origin.
“There is so much damage to the particular area [where fire started],” MacDonald said. “You cannot pinpoint one cable or one piece of equipment over another. There are multiple pieces of equipment where the fire was started.”
MacDonald said the COM building fulfills the requirements of a building’s standard regulations. Along with many older buildings, COM is not equipped with fire sprinklers, since they were not part of the standard regulation at the time of its construction, MacDonald explained.
COM Dean Thomas Fiedler wrote in an email that university staff members cleaned and repaired the building over the weekend. Community members are able to resume their daily routines in COM except in the section of WTBU that needs major reparations.
“Plans are already underway to operate the programs from an alternative space so the WTBU crew will be able to return to their programs within the next few days,” Fiedler wrote. “We are also planning the studio’s complete reconstruction, which would include state-of-the-art equipment and spaces.”
Fiedler wrote that he hopes a better and fully operational WTBU station will be put together by the time fall semester begins.
Several WTBU members fondly recalled the time they spend in the radio station. Though they expressed hope for a new studio, the students said the old station would remain a special part of their college experiences.
Caroline Vigna, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, said she was an intern at WTBU last semester is and now a DJ. Vigna said she loved staying in the studio to play music for hours, and she hopes the station will recover by next semester.
“Radio is the one thing I am looking forward to every week,” Vigna said. “It is not just the equipment I am upset about, it is the CDs, the autographs, the posters and stickers on the wall. It was really a unique place, destroyed by fire.”
Kaitlin Milliken, a sophomore in COM, said she joined WTBU her freshman year and is now a DJ for the show “Please Take My Mixtape.” Milliken said though she is upset about the studio being destroyed, members of WTBU are continuing their work in different ways.
“I did not know how serious the fire was when it first happened because there are fire alarms [set off] all the time,” Milliken said. “Some of the shows were pre-recorded, and the DJs are able to produce the shows. Others are talking about broadcasting shows through podcast and their own channel.”
Jennie Rhee, a junior in COM, said she has been a DJ at WTBU since the second semester of her sophomore year. She said that though the fundraiser might be able to construct a better station, it would never be the same.
“[The station] is my little safe haven,” Rhee said. “I’ve loved music for as long as I could remember, and to have a community where we can just focus on music for the sake of it makes me really happy … I’m going to miss being able to go into that intimate little studio with my DJ partner at 8 a.m. on Thursdays and talk about whatever.”