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Photos by Alan Simpson Page last updated: 2021-09-27

DSO 3 - Fire! Fire!

Alan writes:

Shortly after lunch on 13th May 2010, all our analogue TV channels other than Channel 5 abruptly went off air. Two or three minutes later the terrestrial digital channels followed suit. A trip to the garden to view the Oxford TV transmitter mast at Beckley revealed this spectacular explanation!

I don't know anyone has contributed any decent pics of the recent fire at the Oxford TV mast at Beckley. If not, I would be happy to contibute one, but it was taken from 4.5km away on a hazy day. It is right on the limit of the camera's resolution and noise level but if no one has come up with anything better, you are welcome to use it...

The EXIF info in the file shows the photo was taken at 1430.

At the time of the incident the new main antenna system was in use for the first time and measurements were being taken from a helicopter which was assessing the performance of the aerial system. This process, known as heli-testing, is normal practice when new antenna systems are commissioned, as it is the best way of ensuring that the new installation is performing as expected.

During the tests it is thought that the feeder cables caught fire near the top of the mast causing all the analogue and digital services to trip off, except Channel 5, which uses its own separate aerial panels. VHF radio continued on reduced power. It wasn't until around 2130 that evening that tv services were restored by switching them back to the reserve antenna system lower down the mast.

The new main antenna system was inspected as soon as it was considered safe to do so and it has apparently been damaged beyond repair. Arqiva has ordered a new antenna and hope to have it in service by the end of September 2010.

Oxford serves about 410,000 people, some of whom receive less than satsfactory signals from the reserve aerial, which is much lower down the mast.

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