Assessing the damage from WCAX transmission tower fire

Published: Nov. 20, 2019 at 12:44 PM EST
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We have an update for you on that fire at the WCAX transmitter tower that has knocked out our over-the-air signal for a second day. Our Cat Viglienzoni went to see some of the challenges in getting it fixed and has new information for you.

Mount Mansfield is the highest point in Vermont. And at 4,200 feet above sea level, is our transmitter.

Wednesday, it was totally fogged in and you couldn't see anything. And that is one of the challenges. The other challenge is the Toll Road. It's all covered in snow and closed in the winter. The only way up is actually with a snowmobile at this point. And that is how, on Thursday, specialized crews will get to the scene to assess the damage.

"We have been working basically nonstop," said Jay Barton, the vice president and general manager of WCAX-TV.

Barton says engineers drove overnight to get here to help us fix the transmitter which was damaged in a fire on Tuesday afternoon. Barton says the fire was self-contained.

"What they did not have to do was extinguish it. Because the system itself does not burn easily, so it actually put itself out after a certain amount of time," he explained.

Barton says new temporary antennas are on a truck arriving Wednesday night. A specialized tower crew flew in on Wednesday to assess the damage first thing in the morning on Thursday.

"Even when you're there, you're at the height of a 10-story building away from the problem. And you have to climb that manually. There's no stairs, there's no elevator. There's a ladder or less that has to be climbed by only professionals who do this for a living," Barton said. "That's what's we've been waiting for-- for those professionals to arrive so we can have them climb up into the antenna itself and survey the damage. And that's why we just don't know yet until we can get our eyes on it."

They'll be doing that work in the fog and snow, documenting the damage to the antenna inside and out. Then, we'll be able to choose a fix. We also have to follow specific regulations to make sure any work we do protects people and the environment.

Until that assessment is done, we will not know what caused the fire or the extent of the damage. Once we do know that, we are going to work as fast as we can to get our signal back to you.

We are back on the air on the Xfinity/Comcast and Charter cable systems. We're hoping to get other providers online soon, too. We'll keep you posted as soon as we know more.

And you can still watch the livestream of the Channel 3 News on our website,, and on our app.