Thursday, February 18, 2010

Fire on the Mountain

Twelve days ago I took a ride up a steep and difficult road to investigate a cluster of lights I had spotted near the summit of one of the local mountains. The lights, it turned out, were from a housing development that has appeared near the base of the transmission towers on Penobscot Knob. This caused me to wonder:

How do they get their water? Where does their sewage go? Who ran utilities up to them? Who plows their roads? Who will come to save their houses when they catch fire?
Less than a week later, several other people were pondering that last question on a professional level. Though it wasn't one of the houses that was on fire, but one of the transmission stations at the towers.

Fire destroys WVIA building, knocks out signal - News - Citizens Voice
A worker reported electrical equipment in the building began sparking, and flames soon spread to the ceiling, he explained.

"Once it got to that area, it's off to races," he said.

Firefighters from several area companies guided the four tanker trucks up a long dirt road from a staging area off Lehigh Street to fight the blaze. There was no water supply at the site and only one truck could traverse the narrow road at a time, Tudgay said.

"Water was a huge issue," he said. "Where it's at, there's not much you could do about it."
As I heard the chatter on the emergency scanner, I didn't realize that this wasn't one of those houses. My ears perked up when I heard "Laurel Run Road" - that's the road that goes up Giant's Despair - and then heard a lot of back-and-forth questioning whose coverage area this fell into. Then I heard the driver of one of the responding vehicles, possibly a water tanker, reminding everyone that their vehicle was not equipped for mountain climbing or off-road adventures, but was essentially a tractor-trailer. Not the sort of thing I would want to see trying to go up (or down) Giant's Despair.

WVIA is back on the air, thanks to a lot of hard work and the generous assistance of other local broadcasters. But now I hope a lot of people are taking a long, hard look at the new construction up there and asking: OK, next time, when it's one of these houses on fire, what's the plan?

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