Cause of Bilsdale transmitter fire announced

Workers at the Bilsdale site. Image: Arqiva.

A water leak has been blamed for the fire at the Bilsdale transmitter which left more than a million people without TV reception.

Arqiva, the company that operates the mast, has today provided an update on the investigations into the cause of the blaze that occurred on August 10, 2021.

The company said work to establish the cause began soon after the fire, when several interested parties, including Arqiva’s insurers and third-party owners of equipment that share usage of the mast, commissioned investigations.

The company said in a statement: “The various investigations (including our own proactive work) have taken many months to complete due to a combination of factors including: difficult weather conditions at the remote moorland mast site on the North York Moors; strict site safety rules; the fact that time-consuming processes were required to investigate the demolished steel mast structure, which was 314 metres tall and weighed 500 tonnes; and the need to gather various materials and components on site before they could be reviewed and laboratory tested.

“Arqiva has been informed that its insurers have now concluded their investigations and whilst the precise findings have not been shared, Arqiva understands that the root cause of the fire has been attributed to water ingress to an electrical component connected to third-party equipment.”

Arqiva said it was unable to comment in detail on these findings while the claims process was ongoing.

“Arqiva intends to provide a further update as soon as it is permitted to do so,” the statement added.

Adrian Twyning, Arqiva’s chief of operations, said: “Once more, I would like to apologise to all those who lost their TV and radio services as a result of the fire last August.

“We continue to work closely with our insurers, customers and third-party companies to ensure the continued safety, security and operational resilience of all our mast sites.

“We are also focused on the huge construction project underway to build a new, permanent mast at Bilsdale, which will serve the people of North Yorkshire, Tees Valley and County Durham for many years to come.”

Investigation findings

“The alarm was raised in the early afternoon on August 10, 2021 by Arqiva engineers who were on site at Bilsdale at the time and who saw smoke coming from points on the mast.

“The fire service was called, and the site was evacuated with a 300m exclusion zone put in place. It took several days for the fire to be extinguished. Arson was ruled out by the fire service.

“Forensic investigators visited the site on several subsequent occasions, along with representatives from third-party companies who use the mast.

“Once the operation to demolish the damaged mast was completed on October 6, 2021, investigators were able to cut open the mast and carry out detailed examinations of its internal structures, materials, and contents.”

Checks at other mast sites

“Security, safety and resilience are of paramount importance to Arqiva. Since the incident at Bilsdale, Arqiva has carried out comprehensive inspections of 48 key transmitter sites around the UK in order to ensure the continuing safety, security, and resilience of its masts. These inspections were in addition to the frequent expert testing which Arqiva undertakes in the ordinary course of its work.

“No faults or concerns were found during these additional inspections.

“Arqiva also carried out specific tests of radio frequency feeders for TV and radio. Again, no underlying issues were found.

“As part of a programme of ongoing vigilance, Arqiva plans to carry out further inspections of its masts including inspection and functional testing of third-party equipment to ensure everything performs as designed. Arqiva will continue to check and monitor its sites rigorously and regularly, using expert insights and the latest technology, in order to mitigate risks and provide the best service to its customers, and to the viewing public.”


1 Comment

  1. The actual reason was poor maintenance else there would not have been an ingress of water. I’m astonished the mast weighed 500 tonnes!

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