A tower fire on the master FM antenna at West Tiger Mountain Thursday morning forced a half-dozen radio broadcasters to shift to backup facilities. Early photos of the incident showed smoke clearly visible at the top of the American Tower site in the foothills east of Seattle.
Six FM stations on the master were impacted by the fire: Entercom’s KSWD(FM), iHeartMedia’s KBKS(FM), KJAQ(FM) and KZOK(FM) along with Hubbard’s KNUC(FM) and KQMV(FM).
Clay Freinwald, who works as a “tower watcher” for American Tower, told Radio World in an email that initial calls to the fire department came in from motorists around 6:45 a.m. PST on Thursday. The fire was declared out by 8:00 a.m.
The rough terrain made it difficult for firefighters to reach the site, according to various media outlets in the area.
“After looking at some of the pictures, taken by friends, local TV stations and those posted to social media, it was clear the big master antenna was emitting large quantities of smoke and not a building, much to my surprise,” he writes.
Freinwald continued, “Alex Brewster, Entercom staff engineer, brought his drone to the site to gather pictures and videos. This helped us to understand what happened with this big 32-bay antenna (eight bays, four-around).”
A crew from Electronics Research Inc. (ERI) is expected to be on-site Saturday to climb, examine and determine what it will take to get the system back online. “We are all expecting it will be some time since this is happening as winter is getting close. At over 3,000 feet and 47 degrees north, weather is going to be a big factor,” Freinwald wrote in his email.
A nearby tower at the same site, which serves area TV stations, was not damaged by the fire.
Freinwald didn’t speculate on what could have caused the fire near the top of the 200-foot tower, but did add that he does not suspect vandalism. “This was clearly a failure of a portion of the antenna.”
The fire remains under investigation.