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Big Catalina Fire Originates at KBRT

(From the CGC Communicator) A fire that started at the KBRT(AM) transmitter plant on Catalina Island near Los Angeles apparently ignited the 4,200- acre wildfire that ravaged the island’s interior and threatened Avalon, the resort’s main town. One home and six industrial buildings were lost but no one was seriously injured. The fire is expected to be fully contained by Tuesday evening.

According to a published report supplemented by information from the island, a tower contractor hired by KBRT had been warned against using a cutting torch because of dry brush fire danger.

While the station’s transmitter engineer, Bill Agresta, was inside the transmitter building and temporarily away from the work site, the contractor used a gasoline-powered circular saw to cut metal, and sparks from the blade apparently ignited the brush.

Bill reportedly said he saw a small blaze when he went outside the transmitter building. Then he ran back inside to call 911.

By the time he went outside again, the fire had moved several hundred feet downhill and engulfed the contractor’s tool truck – the blackened hulk of which remained at the site as of Saturday.

Commercial power and telco lines feeding the “KBRT Ranch” (as the transmitter site is known) were destroyed in the fire. The station resumed operations Sunday using its own power generator and CDs hand-carried to the island for programming. Joel Saxberg is reportedly at the site attempting to set up a Ku-band satellite downlink as an STL, but is said to be having trouble acquiring the satellite. As of 9:30 AM Monday, the station was off the air again, but this time voluntarily until the program feed bugs are resolved.

Meanwhile, Bill Agresta is nursing some fractured ribs suffered when one of the construction workers commandeered his tractor and accidentally ran into him during the fire melee.

Qualcomm Fires Up on Black Mountain

Qualcomm, based in San Diego, has begun transmissions of
its MediaFLO system, which use its experimental licenses on traditional
TV broadcast channels 53 and 59. They plan to eventually occupy channel
55, spectrum purchased as part of the FCC’s reallocation of the 700 MHz
band, channels 52-69, for purposes other than broadcasting.

(Reprinted from CGC Communicator #711:)

An individual familiar with MediaFLO’s operations in San Diego (CGC #710)
reports that Black Mountain and San Miguel Mountain are both on the air
for the purpose of broadcasting to cellphones (or the experimental
phase thereof).  San Miguel has reportedly been on the air since November a year ago, while Black
Mountain was added a few weeks later according to the letter. Mount
Harvard (Los Angeles), Denver and some Boston sites are said to be
completed already.  We are also told that MediaFLO is being looked at
seriously in Europe.

While MediaFLO is authorized to use a number of different TV
channels in San Diego under an experimental grant, the company’s
continued use of Channel 53 is in jeopardy.  XHUPN-DT on Cerro
Bola is
expected to light up on CH-53 soon, at which time MediaFLO will
presumably be required to extinguish its operations on that
channel.  XHUPN is said to be internationally coordinated on CH-53.