Tucson TV broadcasters on backup power as flames threaten other sites

July 1, 2003

Wildfires near Tucson, Ariz., raced across a ridge atop Mount Lemmon populated with various transmission towers while television broadcasters with facilities on Mount Bigelow and Soldier Peak have been forced to switch to backup power but remained otherwise unaffected by the flames.

The communications facilities on Radio Ridge at Mount Lemmon comprise towers and transmission equipment for a number of local, state and federal government agencies as well as private two-way and FM radio operators.

Main power was lost to Tucson television transmitters on Mount Bigelow. Broadcasters were forced to use backup generators, and without access to their facilities and the ability to refuel, they could lose their signals. KGUN-TV reported having enough diesel fuel to continue transmission for two weeks, while KUAT-TV had fuel for about four days. About 70 percent of Tucson’s residents receive local television via cable or satellite, and there was no threat of interrupting the broadcasters’ feed to the cable headend facilities from the fire.

About 1,000 firefighters battled the blaze, which has consumed 250 homes and part of a ski area.

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