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Scale of blackout after mast blaze revealed.

Byline: IAN JOHNSON @TeessideLive

THE number of homes left without a Freeview signal following the Bilsdale mast fire has been estimated as 500,000.

Smoke poured from the 1,032ft mast on Tuesday as firefighters tackled the blaze at the giant structure near Helmsley.

In an update yesterday, officials say there's "nothing to suggest" it was started deliberately.

However, almost 48 hours since the blaze broke out, the scale of the television blackout it caused across Teesside and beyond emerged.

"Approximately 500,000 households could have been impacted by the fire at the Bilsdale transmitter, with around 200,000 of those using Freeview as their primary TV platform," confirmed a Freeview spokesperson. The transmitter was still off air at the time of going to press, with a 300m cordon in place until further notice. The firm confirmed it had "been able to restore service to some of those homes by providing signal from other nearby transmitters.'

The dramatic scenes unfolded on Tuesday afternoon, with an engineer working at the transmitter raising the alarm.

Smoke was spotted from below the first level, around 50m up, before members of the public also dialled 999 with crews from seven stations - including Coulby Newham - racing to the scene.

While the fire was extinguished that evening, concerns over the mast's structure linger.

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue confirmed the cordon will remain until they are confident it was "structurally secure."

"When the site is safe North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service will return for a closer examination.

"This will allow us to positively confirm that the fire has been extinguished and to begin the process of investigating the cause of the fire,"

added a service spokesperson.

"At this time there is nothing to suggest that the first is the result of any criminal activity but this cannot be confirmed until a closer examination has been carried out.

"We continue to work with the site operator Arqiva to ensure the safely of all those involved in the investigation operation."

The mast is responsible for beaming in the likes of BBC television, as well as radio stations like BBC Tees, to homes across the region.

According to operator Arqiva, many of those services were returned to hundreds of thousands of people in the area by 7pm on Wednesday.

However, a spokesperson added: "The task to reinstate all the services that were available from a 1,000ft mast is a complex one and we are working hard to get as many services back up as quickly as we can.

"We are assessing all options open to us but the process is a gradual one. We apologise for the inconvenience but ask that you bear with us as our teams work hard to deliver solutions for as many people as possible as quickly and safely as we can."


Fire crews at Bilsdale earlier this week

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Author:IAN JOHNSON @TeessideLive
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Aug 13, 2021
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