A $10,000 reward is being offered for information about a fire that was intentionally set at a radio transmitter station in Kennewick.
Tri-Cities Crime Stoppers received an anonymous donation that allowed authorities to offer the enhanced reward for information leading to the arrest of a suspect or suspects. The organization usually offers cash rewards of up to $1,000.
The fire Nov. 15 at the building in a vacant field behind Kamiakin High School knocked three local radio stations off the air and destroyed expensive equipment, authorities said. Officials estimate damages at the small building surrounded by a chain-link fence exceed $100,000.
Power 99.1, Eagle Classic Rock 106.5 and KJOX 1340 are transmitted from the building, which is run by Radio Tri-Cities. KJOX — an ESPN affiliate — is the only station that is not back on the air and officials say it could be a while before it returns.
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Kennewick police are investigating the suspicious fire and following up on leads, Detective John Davis said at a press conference Tuesday. He would not discuss the case or details about the fire.
The fire burned itself out and a employee discovered the charred building around 9 a.m. Fire officials say the fire started sometime between 1 and 1:30 a.m.
Kennewick police spokesman Mike Blatman called the fire a major crime and a large economic lass for the local radio company. Burned wires and electronics lay strewn across a dirt patch in front of the graffitti-covered building as Blatman spoke to a small crowd.
“They pretty much have to start over,” he told the Herald.
The fire could be prosecuted by federal authorities because the Federal Communications Commission oversees the local radio stations, Blatman said.
Vandalism on the building has been a problem dating back decades, Blatman said. The fence at the building has been cut multiple times in the past.
The building was tagged with an assortment of graffiti, including an apparent message to a Kennewick man shot by police over the summer. Police are looking into whether the graffiti has any connection to the fire, Blatman said.
Radio personalities and employees from the stations were at the building Tuesday to show support. Frank Jaxon, who hosts a morning show for Eagle 106.5, assured the crowd that the fire will not stop radio hosts from providing entertainment and music to listeners.
“(The suspect) has not damaged the spirit of the radio,” he said.
Authorities asking anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers at 509-586-8477, 800-222-8477 or www.tricitiescrimestoppers.org. All tips are anonymous.