KREX rebuilds after devastating fire

No. 5 of the Top Ten Stories of 2008

A heavy cloud of a smoke hovered over Hillcrest Drive on Sunday, Jan. 20, and it could be seen across the valley.

In the morning light, flames licked the historic KREX-TV building. Reporters and neighbors gathered to watch, and cry.

Mike Page, spokesman for the Grand Junction Fire Department, called the interior of the building “a death trap” as firefighters struggled with the “smoke explosions,” when smoke becomes fuel and turns combustible.

The one-story building at 345 Hillcrest Drive burnt to the ground that day, an estimated
$6 million loss.

The cause of the fire was never determined, although people at the news station later blamed a faulty space heater.

Several heroes emerged that day. Texas resident Richard Swingle was visiting his brother in Grand Junction, and was on his way to Sunday services at Canyon View Vineyard Church, when he saw smoke coming from the news station. He pounded on the doors to get the attention of the five employees inside.

Reporter Lauren Dirks answered the door and went back into the burning building to get her co-workers.

KREX was temporarily unable to broadcast, and some people missed watching the NFL playoffs that day. The station bounced back and has been broadcasting from Rocky Mountain PBS at Western Colorado Community College since the fire.

On Dec. 3, employees had a ceremonial groundbreaking for a new TV facility where the old building stood, designed to fit in with the residential area.

“Our viewers, our neighbors, our customers and clients — we’ve had tremendous support,” said Ron Tillery, KREX’s general manager. “We are so thankful to our neighbors that encouraged us to rebuild on that site.”

Tillery said the new building’s completion date is early summer 2009.


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