FIRE: Mast blaze brings radio blackout

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RESIDENTS across the city today woke up to a radio blackout after a 580ft transmitter collapsed.

RESIDENTS across the city today woke up to a radio blackout after a 580ft transmitter collapsed.Firefighters and police officers were called to the mast at Morborne, near Stilton, Peterborough, at 10.20pm on Saturday, following a fire on the tower which houses communication equipment worth millions of pounds.

The 200-ton mast, owned by Crown Castle UK, crushed a two-storey unmanned building, and narrowly missed a road.

Hundreds of thousands of people were without radio services.

David Martin, editor of BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, said: "All the main networks have been affected by this. It's going to cause a huge amount of problems."

Mr Martin added BBC Radio Cambridgeshire could be off the air in Peterborough until Wednesday.

Farmer Nigel Rome, who lives at Manor Farm, Morborne, saw the blaze.

He said: "Our electricity flipped out at about 10.10pm.

"I received a phone call from Crown Castle UK asking if the mast was on fire.

"I looked out of my window and I could see a red glow. When I got up there it was already down."

A total of 20 firefighters from Dogsthorpe and Yaxley battled for five hours to bring the blaze under control, pumping 2,000

gallons of water on to the blaze from the turntable ladder.

Today the blackened, twisted remains of the tower were still on top of the building, which fire crews said was close to collapsing under the weight.

Firefighters and police officers are keeping an open mind about how the tower collapsed, but senior firefighter Ray McDonnell, from Dogsthorpe, said it was unlikely the tower had been targeted by arsonists.

He said: "We think the fire started about 80ft up the tower.

"If that's the case there's enough plastic insulation material to cause the severe heat which would compromise the stability of the tower."

Mr McDonnell said the mast had collapsed in a "zig-zag" fashion, missing a country road and the nearby 300ft concrete British Telecommunications tower.

Stephen Arnold, a spokesman from Crown Castle UK, said the mast broadcast BBC Radio 1, 2, 3 and 4, as well as BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, Classic FM, and a number of other commercial and digital radio stations to Peterborough.

The engineers' priority was to restore services – which they hoped to do in the next 24 hours.

This morning he said: "Today we will commence installation of an emergency transmitter on site.

"The site is also used by a number of mobile telecoms operators."

Land next to the site was being made available so temporary transmitters could be put up to re-establish coverage.

Yesterday, digital versions of Vibe FM, Classic Gold and Hereward FM were unavailable.

• Anyone who was in the Morborne area after 9pm on Saturday and has any information about the incident, should telephone police on 08454 564564.