PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Friction between exposed wiring and the metal siding of a building apparently caused an electrical fire at the WEGP radio station on Saturday morning, according to Chief Darrell White, of the Presque Isle Fire Department.
Firefighters responded to the building on the Chapman Road around 7:15 a.m. on Aug. 24, after a passerby called to report the fire.
White described the incident as, “a very small fire,” that caused little damage to the building as a whole or to the equipment stored inside the building.
White further said that the most expensive equipment in the building during the fire is likely salvageable. The building was reportedly empty at the time and there were no injuries, he said on Tuesday.
The WEGP building has been around since 1960, when a local publisher named Edward G. Perrier took ownership. Perrier is credited with starting the radio station, whose letters were taken from his own initials.
Perrier, originally from Fort Fairfield, was one of the first Aroostook editors for the Bangor Daily News, beginning in 1936. He later became the editor for the Star-Herald newspaper in Presque Isle, as well. About a decade later, he became the paper’s owner and publisher until 1962 when he sold the business to the Northeast Publishing Company and the radio station two years later.
Perrier lived in The County for much of his life until he reportedly passed away in Mars Hill in 1994. Since then, the WEGP building has remained on the Chapman Road, a long-standing tribute to the Star City’s media history.
The station has undergone transformations over the years, including a change of call letters to WTMS and then returning to WEGP in a talk-radio format. Its focus became religious in 2015 when the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland adopted it, and several other stations throughout Maine, as The Presence Radio Network. On June 16, 2018, TheCounty.ME reported that the diocese had transferred licensing to Relevant Radio.
Cindy Nickless of the Relevant Radio board of directors said the diocese is working to assess the fire damage and will make plans to renovate the building to avoid another incident.
“We have quite a bit of fire damage…. Our goal is to repair and get back on the air as soon as we can,” Nickless said, adding that the fire only damaged the back room, which didn’t have any equipment, and confirmed that the building wasn’t a total loss.
While the diocese works to repair the station, Nickless said that people can continue to listen to the programming on relevantradio.com or by downloading the app.