Cambridge amateur radio club off the air after equipment stolen, damaged

Cambridge's amateur radio club is off the air for the time being after the group's equipment storage shed was broken into.

The KW Amateur Radio Club stepped in to help and made room for Cambridge club members

A room with a broken table, chair, as well as radio equipment on the floor.
Scott Mitchell, president of the Cambridge Amateur Radio Club, said they will be off the Air in Cambridge after the shed where they store their transmitter and receiving equipment was broken into. (Submitted by Scott Mitchell)

Cambridge's amateur radio club is off the air for the time being after the shed where the group keeps their communications equipment was broken into. 

The Cambridge Amateur Radio Club (CARC) has been connecting via short wave radio with other amateur radio groups across the country and globe for 50 years, and has a wide range of age groups who participate.

"A lot of us do contact from home. We do meet up once a week on Sundays and we meet in a parking lot and set up our radios and our antennas to see who we can reach," Scott Mitchell, president of CARC told CBC News.

In 2022 the club connected with the International Space Station for a conversation with U.S. astronaut Kjell Lindgren.

No signal on holiday

Mitchell said the group noticed something wasn't quite right during the Labour Day long weekend when their radio repeater — a device that receives and retransmits radio signals — wasn't picking them up. 

"At the time we thought: 'it was hot and extremely humid, it was 40 C with the humidex, the repeater probably just shut down because it was too hot,'" he said, adding that's what the system does when it overheats.

Mitchell went to check the device a few days after the heatwave ended. 

When he got to the shed on Eagle Street, he noticed garbage around the area and when he looked inside, Mitchell said it took him a moment for things to sink in.

"I thought to myself, 'What am I looking at?'" 

Mitchell said a table and chairs were broken, and a device called a duplexer had been tossed across the shed. One corner of the shed had also been set on fire. The club's repeater devices, which were locked away, only had smoke damage, he said.

Mitchell said a portable electric generator used for remote events, and several tools stored in the shed were stolen.

Corner of a wooden shed with fire damage.
A corner of the shed also had fire damage, Mitchell said. (Submitted by Scott Mitchell)

'No brainer'

The break-in was reported to to police, Mitchell said. "This is the first time in — I believe 20 to 30 years" that this has  happened. 

"Our friends at the KW Amateur Radio Club have offered us space on their repeater so we can have our weekly discussions," he said.

Harry Niezen, president of the Kitchener club said  he was shocked to hear what happened in Cambridge and "it really was a no brainer" when he got the call from the Cambridge club asking for help.

"Amateur radio is like that. We are hobbyists, we are passionate about what we do, but as much as what we do with the technology ... we're as much about the people we contact and are involved with," Niezen told CBC News.

"We do enjoy helping each other out."

Neizen said their equipment will be available for Cambridge club members to use until the missing equipment is replaced.