|I like to start this column with a picture. Last
month was a pretty one of a sunset behind the Tower at West Tiger-1. This month, pictures of a Master FM Antenna
being destroyed at West Tiger-2 on the morning of November 8th. It was a clear cold morning, permitting many
to see this as they were driving I-90 between Issaquah and North Bend. The fire calls started in about 6:45 a.m. Had it been one of those soggy/rainy days,
no-one may have noticed. Not much the
Fire Department could do other than to put out objects that had fallen to the
ground that were still burning. As you
can tell from the following, the smoking antenna system was observed from
Whereas I am employed by American Tower to
look after this, and other sites on West Tiger and Cougar Mt., this day will be
remembered for a long time. Interesting
that the first call I received was from Ted Buehner who was working at KRKO at
the time. Shortly after that, phone calls and emails were all in parallel. In all my years in this business I have
had my share of antenna failures. This is the first time that I’ve experienced
an antenna that was actually on fire. I’ve had them burn-up…but in this case the fire was contained within
the antenna. In this case, the fire
started with a failure of a portion of the antenna that ignited the ABS
coverings around it that’s designed to minimize the effect of ice and
snow on it.
These coverings are called ‘Radomes’. To ignite ABS requires a temperature of
approx. 416 degrees, indicating the electrical fire that started it all was
quite hot. The pictures of the antenna
clearly show the fire worked its way down the multiple section antenna due to
pieces of burning ABS igniting antenna sections below. It spread horizontally due to wind.
This picture was sent to me by a friend who
lives on the hill to the north of the site. Here you can quite clearly see how all but the
top of the antenna was burning.
The tower to the right in this picture, is at
the same site, however was not impacted by the fire. Antennas at the top of that structure are used
by TV Stations.
I don’t know if American Tower has naming
rights here, however, from this day forward I submit that this antenna be
forever called OLD SMOKEY.
These pictures were taken by a WSDOT Traffic
Camera located at SR18 and I-90.
Note the tower on the left in this
picture. This is the ‘other’ West Tiger
tower site (Called West Tiger #1) about
a half mile to the west. Due to the
angle of the picture, it looks a lot shorter. Actually, the tops of all of these
towers at the same elevation – 3148 ft. above sea-level.
ABS is a very common material, used
extensively for many other things that you encounter routinely. For
example, plumbing. That black plastic pipe under your kitchen
sink is likely ABS. A lot of components
in your vehicle use the stuff as well. It’s used to make carrying
cases that are quite popular, even canoes. Perhaps one of the most
interesting uses of ABS is for building LEGO.
If you look close at this picture, you can
see pieces of the melted ABS sticking to the fencing at the site, as well as
laying on the ground. American Tower,
the owner of the facility, had a lot of clean-up to do.
In this picture you can see the whole
antenna. It was, perhaps, the biggest
FM transmitting antenna in this area in terms of number of radiating elements,
called bays, with 32.
The pole above the FM Antenna was used to
support a TV station that used to operate at this site. At the very top is the Beacon Light that did
not function after the fire.
So what kind of Antenna is this? The antenna is manufactured by Electronic
Research, commonly called ERI. It’s
called a ‘Cogwheel’.
Unique to this antenna is the fact that the tower structure to which it’s
mounted is part of the antenna as the following explains: https://www.eriinc.com/product/cogwheel-antenna-support-structure/
The antenna is made in 2 versions, 3-sided
and 4-sided. The latter was used at
West Tiger, as you can see from the above picture.
I took a few more pictures that better show
what happened. Here is one showing the
top of the antenna that was not impacted. Note how the black ABS radomes on the antenna are intact and not melted.
Looking further down the tower you see this. Note how the Radomes are gone and the amount of ‘blackened’ surfaces.
A close up of one of the damaged portions
looks like this. What cannot be seen is
the damage to the interior of the antenna.
This picture is interesting as it shows one of
pieces of melted ABS that got caught on a guy-wire supporting an ice-shield
above a microwave dish antenna.
So what was the impact on which stations that
were using this site and antenna?
West Tiger #1 – FM only
Cougar Mt – FM Only
Cougar Mt- FM & HD
Cougar Mt – FM Only
Cougar Mt – FM Only
Cougar Mt – FM & HD
Note that 3 of stations where in the top 5 in
the ratings. (This has to hurt.)
Thankfully, all of the impacted stations had
auxiliary/backup transmitter facilities that they could use. Hubbard had the foresight to install
relatively new transmitters at their auxiliary facilities, that enabled them to
continue to broadcast HD Radio multi-cast channels as well as some of the other
features that listeners have become use to expect. The others are using older equipment that is
not capable. I would guess that, in
light of this event, this might change. The position these stations find themselves in,
is ‘now’ they only have one transmitter.
So what happened next? The following Saturday and Sunday, the
manufacturer of the burnt antenna had a crew on the tower to assess the
damage. That information was provided
to the engineers at ERI, who then conferred with executives at American Tower to
formulate what to do next. Certainly
all involved are anxious to get this resolved so that transmitting from this
location can result. Complicating all
of this is the fact that the weather at West Tiger is only going to
progressively get worse as we move into Winter. This location, like others in this region,
will experience, periodic ‘weather windows’ (periods between storms) when tower
work can take place. The bottom line is nothing is likely to take place as fast
as many would wish.
failure of the FM Master Antenna at West
Tiger -2 has left several stations scrambling, knowing that when their
Transmitter is not available, their Auxiliary is now their main and that
well mean they now don’t have a backup should that unit fail.
Let’s take iHeart Media's stations in
Seattle as an example. 96.5/Jack FM is now depending on a 40 year
transmitter on Cougar Mt. They recently
brought in a low powered, but much newer BE STX transmitter as
insurance. Ditto for their 102.5/KZOK. Their KISS 106/KBKS
operation is much
better off. That station just so
happens to have their backup also located on West Tiger -1, the original
on the mountain. A bit of history
here, thanks to all the shuffling of
stations and owners. The present 106.1
Auxiliary used to be the KMPS/94.1 Main.
Here, in this picture, you can see electrician
Bob Ricker standing in front of the 1988 Vintage Continental transmitter. To
the right is a newer Harris transmitter that’s being installed (as a backup for
the Auxiliary). With his hand in a cabinet is Daniel Sipe of iHeart.
Perhaps a good thing is taking place as a
result of this event. Stations are reviewing how they deal with their Auxiliary
Transmitters. Historically, back-up
transmitter facilities have been created out of hand-me-down equipment, a
former main transmitter is now the auxiliary, etc. Often the auxiliary will operate with less
power or coverage and without such features as HD radio, RDS, etc. The exception to this has been Hubbard who
has recently installed new transmitters for their 92.5 and 98.9 stations at
Cougar. The bottom line is when your
main transmitter is out of commission, especially for a long period of time,
that auxiliary/back-up is suddenly your main and you have no backup. Another lesson learned here is that a true
back-up facility means you have nothing common with your main operation.
Perhaps the one place where radio (and TV)
stations have a weakness is at their studios. I like to say the ‘most feared’ item for a broadcaster is Plastic,
Yellow and comes on a roll. I’m
talking about what’s commonly called Caution Tape. A Police or Fire Department can wrap this
around a broadcaster's studio and no one is going in. Broadcasters need to plan for what’s called
SPOFs or Single Points of Failure, and failure to be able to access your
studio due to a hazardous material incident, etc. can mean the loss of millions.
Meanwhile, there are two radio sites being
constructed at Tiger these days. One on
East and the other on West Tiger, all for the new King County Radio
system. On Nov 12th this
truck load of tower parts was spotted at Tiger Summit awaiting transport in
smaller trucks to the tower site.
A table was recently released by Nielsen
showing the market rankings and population information. A
lot of eyes are on this, as market ranks
can and do change. In our case, the
Seattle Tacoma area continues to be Market #12 with just shy of
4,000,000 12+ Population of 3,932,400. Our Hispanic number is
343,500 with the
Black population listed at 261,100.
So how do we compare with our neighbor to the
south, Portland? They are
with a Metro Population of 2,383,500. Denver is #19 with
2,749,800. Now, if Nielsen had included Vancouver B.C. in its
table, their 2,463,431
Metro Number would make it about market #20.
Yes, NYC is still #1 with about 16.5 Million
followed by LA with about 11.5.
From the memory file, can you believe it was
33 years ago that a little local software outfit called Microsoft introduced
Windows 1.0? November of 1985.
We’ve all seen Rainbows….and many have seen Snow
bows….but how about a “Fog Bow”? Same
principle as a rainbow. In this case, it's a mixture of sunshine and ground-fog.
Anyone else seen one of these and perhaps
snapped a picture?
I don’t know about you, but I am getting about
3-4 robocalls per day. Recently I
was away from my phone and noticed I’d missed a call. (Like a dummy) I called the number and got
some poor soul who made it clear that his number is being used by a robocaller
and he is now getting a lot of calls. It appears that no one is able to do anything about it. According to published reports, there were
more than 12 BILLION robocalls made in the first 4 months of this year (that’s
4,000,000 per hour) and the volume is increasing. And to think that we used to grumble about
Spam and Junk Mail.
Here’s what the FCC has recently said about
FCC CALLS ON NETWORK VOICE PROVIDERS TO JOIN EFFORT TO
COMBAT ILLEGAL SPOOFED SCAM ROBOCALLS
Enforcement Chief and Chief
Technology Officer Wrote to Voice Providers About Helping ‘Traceback’ Efforts
to Stop and to Catch Scam Callers
WASHINGTON, November 6, 2018—The Federal
Communications Commission today sent letters to voice providers, calling on
them to assist industry efforts to trace scam robocalls that originate on or
pass through their networks. These
letters, written by FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Rosemary Harold and Chief
Technology Officer Eric Burger, were sent to voice providers that are not
participating in these “traceback” efforts, including those the FCC has
encouraged to do more to guard against illegal traffic. These traceback efforts assist the FCC in
identifying the source of illegal calls.
“It is vital that public and private
stakeholders work together to combat scam calls,” said Chief Harold about the
letters. “It hinders both FCC
enforcement and industry call authentication work when companies do not
cooperate with traceback efforts. We
must do everything we can to catch and stop scammers, and industry cooperation
is vital to achieving that goal.”
“The industry is helping combat illegal robocalls and
spoofing, but more must be done,” said Dr. Burger about the letters. “We hope all carriers and interconnected VoIP
providers will join these traceback efforts and implement tools to speed the
traceback process, such as deploying a robust call authentication framework. In my experience, strong enforcement is the
best tool against bad actors, and improved traceback is a critical tool for
The agency also wrote to USTelecom to thank it for its
leadership in the traceback effort.
About two years ago, a broadband industry trade association, USTelecom,
formed a group to share information among carriers and providers to help
“traceback” the traffic of illegal calls to the originating provider. Industry participation in this call traceback
effort has proved useful in the Commission’s enforcement efforts to combat
illegal robocalling and spoofing. As the
FCC and industry move forward on call
authentication, consistent participation of all network operators is
critical for helping consumers and enforcing the law.
“A critical component of effective enforcement against
robocalling and spoofing abuses is to quickly identify the source of the
traffic by tracing back the calls to their origination,” wrote Harold and
Burger in today’s letters. “Neither
government nor industry, without the active assistance of the other, can hope
to stem the flood of scam calls plaguing consumers across the country.”
The FCC receives more consumer complaints about
unwanted calls—including scam calls that use spoofing to trick consumers—than
any other subject. The agency uses these
complaints and other resources to find bad actors and take action like the
agency’s recent enforcement penalties.
Recent enforcement actions include:
- A record $120
million fine of Florida-based time-share marketing operation which
made almost 100 million spoofed calls over a three month period.
- A $82
million fine of a telemarketer which made more than 21 million robocalls to
market health insurance.
- A $37.5
million proposed fine of an Arizona marketer which apparently made
millions of spoofed calls that appeared to come from consumers.
In addition, the RAY BAUM’S Act of 2018
made clear that laws prohibiting unlawful spoofing apply to calls originating
overseas if the recipient is in the United States. To that end, we strongly encourage companies
accepting overseas traffic to do what they can to ensure the number is not
thought all of these were gone. Well, not until just the other
day when I removed this beast from service. Hard to believe that
we used to praise a display like this. I forgot how bulky and
heavy they were. This was in an enclosed equipment rack where
someone had installed fans to deal with the heat they produced.
The way I recall it, a friend of Clay
Huntington (Tom Read) had been urging Clay to build a radio station, and that
he did with KLAY-FM going on the air in Tacoma on June 17th 1960. Clay located his transmitter in
various locations over the years…a telephone pole at a concrete pipe plant, top
of an apartment house, a tower adjacent to a golf course. During
those early years various engineers
took care of his technical needs, among them Terry Denbrook and Al
Bednarczyk. Al later handed the reins to me. Clay eventually
moved his FM to Indian Hill, where shortly thereafter he
sold it to Ray Court who increased power to 100 kW. Today, KLAY-FM is owned by iHM and was
(until the recent Antenna Fire) operating from West Tiger-2. Along the way Clay purchased the then, off air, 1480 AM in Lakewood, giving it the call letters of KLAY (For some
reason, I’ve always liked those call letters). I handed off the technical chores of Clay’s
station to Nick Winter who went to work moving the station from 1480 to 1180
and increasing power. In terms of
technical facilities, the station operates with 5 kW Non-Directional Day and 1 kW
directional at night. They also have a
CP for an FM Translator.
Clay passed back in 2011, family members continued to operate KLAY as perhaps
the Tacoma area's only locally originated AM radio station. (The studios were
technically in Lakewood) This too will
come to an end with the announcement that they are selling Clay's radio station
to Sacred Heart Radio for a reported $450,000. This will close a chapter on Tacoma
broadcasting that spanned almost 60 years. Sacred Heart has been expanding over the years from Seattle to Spokane,
Yakima and more recently Olympia, where they purchased the legendary KGY (now
KBUP). You can read more about them
here - http://sacredheartradio.org/home/. At this time it’s not
known whether they will keep the call letters KLAY.
My understanding is Sacred Heart Programming
originates in Kirkland, likely meaning that yet another Tacoma Radio Station
will not be originating programming in the South Sound. The only major Radio station that still does
is KNKX which is bucking the long trend of leaving Tacoma and is building a new
facility in Downtown Tacoma.
In a recent column I wrote about that
dangerous roadway known as Highway 18. Shortly afterward, the following story
made the news:
Casino offers $1 million for fix on SR 18 after employees killed in crash
After two employees
were killed as they drove to work on SR 18 earlier this month, the CEO of
Snoqualmie Casino has offered $1 million in funding to the Washington State
Department of Transportation.
This comes two weeks
after a mother and daughter died in a fatal accident on their way to work at
Since 2014, four casino workers have been
killed on this highway.
"We've got 450 team members that still
drive it every day," he said. "So we want to do what we can to speed
up the process to get that road improved, widened and safer for
So the tribe is proposing sending a million
dollars of its casino earnings to speed up a state study on making SR 18 safer.
As you read, many broadcast engineers drive
this route to reach the access road to get to West Tiger Mountain.
I wonder if the FCC was surprised about the up-rising and
number of C-Band systems in use?
Certainly there has been some significant push-back to the
wireless industry that had their eyes on this spectrum for their own uses. My prediction remains the same. The FCC
will, due to the power and pressure from this every growing spectrum use, be
creative and chop up the band so they can proclaim that everyone wins.
Congratulations to KING 5 on turning 70. The station has been putting historic
items on their Web Site that makes great viewing. I especially enjoyed the shot of the old
KRSC building on 4th Ave South that later contained KAYO Radio where
some famous people worked, such as Ben Dawson!
Here’s a link to some of these stories, likely there are
more - https://www.king5.com/article/news/local/king-5-celebrates-70th-anniversary/281-610094279
It’s time again to review the latest
Radio numbers for the Seattle area.
- Hubbard’s 92.5 is at #1 edging out
KIRO-FM who was #2. Will have to see if
the lack of their main transmitter plant will have any impact.
- KUOW is close behind at #3, proving
again that you don’t have to play rock and roll and commercials to be
- Another station impacted by the tower
fire is Entercom’s 94.1 ‘The Sound’. The fact that they are #4 in the market perhaps re-enforces their
decision to dump the historic KMPS country format and go after the AC
- Another ‘fire-struck’ station, KZOK
is at #5.
- KIRO-AM continues to be the AM
ratings leader at #10 (tied with KPLZ).
- Bonneville’s other AM, KTTH, is
outdoing KOMO-AM, however this might have been an election bounce?
- NWPB’s KVTI appears to be gaining
some audience share. Making a surprise showing is NWPB’s KSWS. Surprising because they are transmitting from
Crego Hill near Chehalis with modest power.
- KNKX HD-2 is still the only HD
Channel making a showing.
Time for a bit of ‘Looking back’. I have to
believe there are many that have no clue what these gizmos are used for:
I have always been interested in the changes
made in ‘human interfacing’.
Here’s an example – Push button light
switches. I wonder why we have to keep
changing the way we turn on the lights. Obviously this was prior to Alexa!
Recently Burk Technology’s Paul Shulins was at
the Seattle SBE Meeting talking about a nifty new product they are rolling out,
designed for remotely managing complex transmitter sites. Many of us in the room looked at each other
when he spoke of keeping track of transmitters incorporating tubes. Yes there are still transmitters out there
with Tubes in them, but their days are numbered.
I ran across this item recently in my
collection of ‘Stuff’.
This was something that a Transmitter Engineer
would use to keep track of the performance of those big tubes. Tubes don’t run forever, they wear out and
need replacing. The way you extend the
life of a Transmitter Tube is by carefully managing the Filament Voltage.
Unlike a lot of companies that have come and
gone, Penta is still with us. http://pentalabs.com/About-Us
Are we going to see another FM station on
Cougar Mountain? Apparently so. In
this case it will be K253CG, an AM Translator for the displaced Kirkland AM
Station KARR. According to the FCC it
will transmitting on 98.5 from the former KUBE Tower at the Ratelco Site. The 300 foot guyed structure is the home of
a number of FM’s including Hubbard’s 106.9, KRWM, at the top.
I recently spotted this little item at West
Tiger 2 (the home of Old Smokey). It’s
a small white-board where engineers would leave notes to each other.
Apparently my note of ‘Lookin Good’ from 28 years ago is still applicable!
Do you recall that tower failure in Fordland,
MO back in April that killed Steve Lemay, a tower worker from this area? OSHA has investigated the matter and concluded the fault lies with the
Contractor for the collapse of the 1891 foot tower.
The report concluded that removing bolts on diagonal braces
during the reinforcing process compromised the structure, that Lemay used
undersized equipment, and that TCI failed to approve the design of a temporary
frame prior to replacing a diagonal, as it was required to do.
Once again, former Entercom Chief Dwight Small
shared this picture taken from his dream home on a lake north of Seattle. As you can see, a wonderful departure from
the ‘rat-race’. Must be tough looking out your bedroom window at this!
Here’s picture taken from my back deck. This
showing the impact of the smoke from the fires in California on our Sunsets.
And finally, some questions for you:
is the third hand on the watch called the second hand?
If a word is misspelled in the dictionary, how
would we ever know?
If Webster wrote the first dictionary, where
did he find the words?…and how did he know how to spell them?
do we say something is out of whack? What is a whack?
does "slow down" and "slow up" mean the same thing?
does "fat chance" and "slim chance" mean the same thing?
do we sing "Take me out to the ball game" when we are already there?
are they called "stands" when they are made for sitting?
is it called "after dark" when it really is "after light"?
Doesn't "expecting the unexpected"
make the unexpected expected?
are a "wise man" and a "wise guy" opposites?
Why do "overlook" and
"oversee" mean opposite things?
is "phonetic" not spelled the way it sounds?
you are cross-eyed and have dyslexia, can you read all right?
do you press harder on the buttons of a remote
control when you //know the batteries are dead?
Why do we put suits in garment bags and
garments in a suitcase?
How come abbreviated is such a long word?
do we wash bath towels? Aren't we clean when we use them?
Why doesn't glue stick to the inside of the
Why do they call it a TV set when you only
- What other time of the year do you sit in front of a dead tree and eat candy
out of your socks?
If I forget to mention it –
Have a great Christmas.
Clay, K7CR, CPBE
SBE Member for over 50 years,