Aspen fire puts Tucson TV transmitter site in harm’s way, causes shutdowns

Like many others in the Tucson, Ariz. area, KUAT-TV (Channel 6) has been forced to deal with the continuing consequences of the Aspen fire plaguing the area.

On Saturday July 5 the station was unable to restart its transmitter on Mount Bigelow because fire had interrupted the station’s remote control system. The station restarted the transmitter the next morning with the help of a firefighter who was allowed on the site. Periodically, public safety officials have restricted access to the site due to the threatening fire.

On Tuesday July 8, the public broadcast station took its Mount Bigelow-originated signal off the air to conduct maintenance to its electrical generator which has powered its transmitter site since June 19 when the Aspen fire interrupted normal electric service to the facility.

At times, the Aspen fire as been within half of a mile of the Mount Bigelow transmitter site. Viewer access to KUAT-TV via cable and its simulcast on Channel 27 has been uninterrupted during the unfolding situation.

KUAT-TV’s Channel 27 simulcast transmitter is located elsewhere and has remained unaffected by the fire. At press time, KUAT-TV had enough diesel fuel at its Mount Bigelow site to keep the transmitter operating for 14 days. KUAT belongs to the KUAT Communications Group, which is an educational broadcast and production resource of the University of Arizona. It also operates KUAT-FM, a classical radio station, with a transmitter on Mount Bigelow and KUAZ-AM and FM which are unthreatened by the fire.

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