Communication tower damaged by fire brought down safely in Bensalem

BENSALEM, Pa. - June 21, 2013

The Action Cam caught the scene after 9:30 p.m. Friday as a large crane slowly lowered the large metal structure to the ground behind the Bensalem Public Works building in the 2200 block of Byberry Road.

The safe resolution came more than 10 hours after welders installing steps on the structure about 80 feet off the ground accidentally touched off a fire in some insulation.

Chopper 6 was overhead as the flames erupted after 11:00 a.m.

Flames and thick black smoke surrounded the cell phone tower, shutting down traffic in the area.

"It was real scary, because flames were just going up for a good 45 minutes," said resident Merolene Robinson.

"There was a lot of hot plastic falling, burning, and I didn't know if it was catching anything on fire," said resident Jim Nelson.

Bensalem Township Public Safety Director Fred Harran said the welders initially tried to put the fire out themselves using fire extinguishers. But the flames quickly spread over their heads and they were forced to rappel down.

Firefighters responded to the scene, and officials set up a 300-foot safety perimeter around the tower, because of fears that the tower might collapse.

That concern prompted the evacuation of dozens of people from the Bensalem Woods apartment complex. They were allowed back to their homes by mid-afternoon.

Crews were not able to use water or foam on the blaze because of the presence of electrical wires, said Harran, and because structural engineers advised that water could further compromise the structure, which had already begun to lean.

For those reasons, the decision was made to let the fire burn itself out.

By late Friday afternoon, the fire was out. Demolition cranes had arrived at the scene, and preparations were made to stablize then drop the tower.

The 300-foot safety perimeter remained in effect, and emergency responders remained on the scene until the structure was finally brought down at 9:42 p.m. Friday.

"We had some people who were inconvenienced, but no structural damage to anything except the cell phone tower, and no injuries. So it's a good days work here," said Harran.

AT&T was planning to bring in a portable cell phone tower to ensure continued service in the area.

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