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Friday, March 7, 2014

CAL FIRE Cow Mountain Prescribed Burn Destroys Television Broadcast Antennas And Equipment #CaFire

Update: TIA Ukiah - The Television Improvement Association

Recent TV outage: controlled burn damaged our equipment
26-Feb-2014: The TV channel outage affecting PBSCBS, and NBC was caused by fire damage to our equipment earlier this week. Both digital and analog signals have been knocked off the air. Apparently the Cow Mountain controlled burn was not as controlled as it needed to be, and it destroyed some of the equipment we use to rebroadcast those channels.
We've restored the NBC signal (digital KCRA 3) and also moved its analog transmission to channel 43. For CBS (KPIX 5) and PBS (KQED 9) we've setup a temporary antenna, but the main pre-amplifier was destroyed, and the signals won't be as steady or reliable. Since this equipment is custom made, we expect it to take several weeks before replacements can be made.

Local TV broadcasts down after controlled burn
Equipment on Cow Mountain damaged last week

A non-profit group that provides free television broadcasts for Ukiah residents who don't have cable had equipment damaged last week during controlled burns conducted by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Carl Sassenrath, chairman of the Ukiah Television Improvement Association, said his group has eight antennas on the top of Cow Mountain, where Cal Fire set fires beginning Feb. 24 to burn vegetation and provide training to firefighters.

"The fire basically melted the cables connected to some the antennas," Sassenrath said, explaining that the fire "jumped the fireline and came all the way to the top."

Julie Cooley, spokesperson for Mendocino's Cal Fire Unit, said she was not aware of the antennas being damaged and could not speak to whether the agency would be liable.

Sassenrath said he spoke to a Cal Fire chief who offered to help pay for the damages, and that he planned to contact him again when he repaired all the equipment and knew how much it cost to fix it.

Six channels, which UTIA receives from San Francisco and then rebroadcasts, were knocked off the air last week. Currently, three channels are back on.

On Wednesday, Sassenrath said his group "braved the storm to get NBC back on the air," but CBS is missing and PBS is spotty. He said once the weather is clear for a few days, the group will try and do more repairs.

He said the timing was particularly bad because the group just bought a new $1,200 antenna system so it could broadcast the Olympics "in an excellent quality digital picture."

For more information about UTIA, which depends on donations from the community, visit

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****REMINDER**** Every fire has the ability to be catastrophic. The wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Growing numbers of communities, across the nation, are experiencing longer fire seasons; more frequent, bigger, and more severe, fires are a real threat. Be careful with all campfires and equipment.
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