Despite the best laid plans, fire brought an early end to the second season HighSchoolOT Live. On Friday night, November 3, 2017, a small fire broke out on the second floor of the WRAL-TV Studios. That meant the evacuation of the building and a premature end to the HSOT broadcast for the evening. However, WRAL-TV staffers were able to get back inside for the 10pm and 11pm newscasts and Football Friday.
Employees had to evacuate the building around 7:30pm for almost two hours. The Raleigh Fire Department responded quickly, put out the flames and worked to get the smoke out of the building.
WRAL-TV Maintenance Engineer Chris Cormier, who discovered the fire, worked to contain it and called 9-1-1 suffered smoke inhalation. Emergency personnel took Cormier to the hospital for treatment as a precautionary measure.
“We’re relieved to hear that Chris is going to be OK,” said Rick Gall, WRAL TV news director. “Thanks to his quick response and actions, the fire didn’t spread. Firefighters then did a great job clearing out the smoke, and we were able to get back into the newsroom in time to produce tonight’s newscasts.”
Meanwhile, as the fire broke out, HSOT Senior Editor Nick Stevens and his team were live, producing the final HSOT Live of the 2017 high school football season.
“We actually didn’t know the building was being evacuated,” he explained. “We thought it was just a problem with the alarm, not an actual fire. We were going to go to the control room to host the show while the alarm was going off. As we were going to the control room, we were told there was an actual fire and we had to evacuate the building. The director pulled up a game stream from one game and left it running while we evacuated.”
The crew spent anxious moments waiting out front of the building, hoping to get back inside to continue the broadcast.
“We were outside for about two hours, so we never got to resume HSOT Live,” he said. “The show — and the season — ended with the fire alarm. That was our season finale. What a way for it to end.”
Stevens shared details of the evening, along with his perspective about the premature end to the broadcast on HighSchoolOT.com:
WRAL’s Friday night NBC programming continued without interruption during the evacuation. WRAL-TV Anchors Debra Morgan and Gerald Owens shared information about the fire event live on Facebook, as NMG Director of Content Jodi Glusco’s captured them via her cellphone. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
ServPro spent the weekend at the Big 5, using air scrubbers and cleaning the building.
“Now, if Chris Cormier was the hero of the day on Friday, WRAL-TV Facilities Manager Chris Coles is the hero of the weekend today!” said WRAL-TV Director of Engineering and Operations Pete Sockett on Sunday. “He will have spent his entire weekend here supporting ServPro as they get the place cleaned up and ready for tomorrow! Big Big thanks to both Chris’!”
The fire, the evacuation and the aftermath presented challenges for the WRAL team, but they proved their dedication to excellence and “coverage you can count on” with their ability to adapt and adjust with a sudden twist to their Friday evening.
“I couldn’t be prouder how our Team handled adversity so very professionally,” said WRAL-TV Vice President & General Manager Steve Hammel. “The calm demeanor of everyone to evacuate, stay outdoors for longer than expected and then return to the station to put newscasts and Football Friday on with so little time (40 minutes before the 10PM newscast) was outstanding. Engineering and News handled this in a textbook fashion.”
Thanks to HSOT’s Nick Stevens & WRAL-TV’s Jeff Gravley for these capcom photos.