Thursday, March 24, 2011

A fire 400 feet up a radio tower


Although extremely rare Radio tower fires do happen mostly at ground level in equipment rooms but what happened in Pittsburgh Pa.
was a fire developed 400 feet up a Radio Tower several years ago . If your station had to respond to just such a fire would you know what to do.
For a fire to happen so far up a tower one of several things would have to happen either a failure in the towers lightning protection system allowing a lightning strike to catch equipment mounted on the tower to catch fire or the Aircraft Warning light system which can be anywhere from 120 volts to 480 volts AC short-circuiting and malfunctioning rarely would the actual radio signal cables cause a fire as they do not carry enough power through them to cause a fire except for high power radio and TV station towers .which pump out thousands of watts ,which should cause serious concern for responding personnel due to high amounts of electro magnetic radiation being given off. So now that you’re responding to a tower fire what kind of precautions must be taken upon arrival? Are vehicles far enough away from tower but close enough to affect a ground fire attack if necessary? since you are not going to be climbing up the tower to fight this fire you will have to protect ground structures from falling tower parts and embers the tower could also be weakened by the fire which is another major concern you will also have to determine how to get transmission lines and power lines shut off to allow the fire to burn it self out never attempt to take an ax through any power or transmission line find the breaker and switch panels and shut the power off there this is extremely important as fatal results could happen if a high power transmission line is cut
or power line which has 440 volts running through it. A friend of mine who is also a career fire fighter relates a story of when he was in the Coast Guard on a military base when some one tried to cut through a high wattage transmission line on the base all they found afterwards was the attackers ax.
It is also important to keep all responding personnel away from the tower as the structure it self could have become energized by the fire .This is why pre planning is essential when it comes to these types of structures to make sure that tower maintenance personnel can be contacted immediately and that power can be shut off with out injury to responding personnel.
Hopefully you will never have to fight one of these towering infernos but if you do
be prepared.

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