Decades-old WWJC radio station badly damaged by early morning fire

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The former general manager shares his memories of working at WWJC, and his hopes that he will return to the airwaves soon.

DULUTH, Minnesota – Burnt wreckage and memorabilia are all that remains of the building that housed WWJC radio in Gary New Duluth, after an early Sunday fire destroyed transmitters at the nearly 60-year-old station, the removing waves.

“We were the first Christian station in the Twin Ports,” said former station general manager Ted Elm. “It’s sad to say there’s been a lot of history that has gone up in smoke.”

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

“I got a call from 9-1-1 and St. Louis County around 3:30 a.m. telling me the station was on fire,” Elm said, “which I didn’t expect to hear. “

Crews found heavy smoke and a fire in the equipment building attached to the main station. The main fire was extinguished within 10 minutes, but crews remained on site for three hours to tackle hot spots.

The three transmitter stations in the equipment building were destroyed.

“We had a very loyal following, so I think they’re going to be disappointed that the station is off the air,” Elm said.

Elm was the general manager of WWJC until 2014, before it was purchased by VCY America and replaced by WQRM 850 AM, broadcasting content only via satellite.

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

In its heyday, Elm said the Christian Station’s 11-tower signal ran east to west—down the St. Louis River and toward Lake Superior. “If you wanted Christian Radio, it just wasn’t available until we were on the air in 1963.”

“Everything from entertainment, to politics, to street guy, to religion, to book authors,” Elm said. “Anyone who had a story I would put.”

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

Damage to equipment alone is estimated at over $500,000, with structural damage estimated at 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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