Decades-Old WWJC Radio Station Heavily Damaged In Early Morning Fire

The former General Manager shares his memories working at WWJC, and his hopes it hits the airwaves again soon.

DULUTH, Minn.- Burned wreckage and memories are all that’s left of the building that housed WWJC radio in Gary New Duluth, after an early Sunday fire took out the nearly 60-year-old station’s transmitters, taking it off the air.

“We were the first Christian station in the Twin Ports,” said the Station’s Former General Manager, Ted Elm. “Sad to say that there was a lot of history that went up in smoke.”

Duluth Fire crews responded to a fire at the WWJC radio building around 3 a.m. Sunday morning, after someone driving by the station on McCuen Road in Gary New Duluth reported the flames.

“I got a call from 9-1-1 and St. Louis County about 3:30 in the morning telling me the station was on fire,” Elm said, “which was something I had never expected to hear.”

Crews found heavy smoke and a fire in the equipment building attached to the main station. The main fire was put out in 10 minutes, but crews were on scene for three hours battling hotspots.

The stations three transmitters in the equipment building were destroyed.

“We had a very loyal audience, so I would think they’re gonna be disappointed with the fact the station is off the air,” said Elm.

Elm was the General Manager of WWJC until 2014, before it was bought by VCY America and changed to WQRM 850 AM, broadcasting satellite content only.

“Well it’s a lifetime. My parents helped build the facility back in 1963,” he said. “I became an employee in 1970 when I was 20. And the next thing you know I was 64 and it was 2014 and I was out the door.”

In its hey-day, Elm said the signal from the Christian station’s 11 towers went east and west — down the St. Louis River, and out onto Lake Superior. “If you wanted Christian Radio it just wasn’t available until we came on the air in 1963.”

“Everything from entertainment to politics to just the guy on the street, religion, book authors,” said Elm. “Everybody who had a story I’d put on.”

The cause of the fire is still unknown and is being investigated by the Duluth Fire Marshal’s office.

Damage in equipment alone is estimated at more than $500,000, with structure damage estimated around $75,000. But after speaking with VCY engineers, Elm said they plan to rebuild.

“It’s a mission with them, it was a mission with us,” he said. “So the mission continues, it’s just another chapter in the book.”

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