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NEW INFORMATION: WEAU 13 tower collapses in Fairchild

By: Amelia Cerling & Chris Baylor, WEAU 13 News Staff Email
By: Amelia Cerling & Chris Baylor, WEAU 13 News Staff Email

NEW INFORMATION:

FAIRCHILD (WEAU)-The WEAU broadcast tower stood as the tallest man made structure east of the Mississippi for 45 years.

Wednesday morning, a pile of twisted metal strewn around the base of the tower and covering County Road H, is all that remains.

It's a sight that shocked all of us, “It's a landmark, always been a good landmark and now it's gone, it's gonna be kinda weird,” Fairchild volunteer firefighter Ray Kirchoff Jr. tells us.

But weird doesn't even begin to describe how WEAU Chief Engineer Ron Wiedemeier feels, particularly Tuesday night, when he got the news that the tower had in fact collapsed.

“I got a phone call just before I got to the transmitter site, they told me the county had called and the tower was lying on the ground. I parked on the side of the road for a few minutes, because it was gut wrenching,” Wiedemeier remembers.

And the rising of the sun Wednesday morning has done little to dispel what for an engineer, truly is a nightmare.

“I always was concerned someday that that might happen. A comment that the guy who hired me said once, there is only one sure thing about that tower, it will come down,” Wiedemeier says.

While the cleanup will take weeks, and rebuilding the tower could take up to a year, WEAU General Manager Terry McHugh says he's just relieved everyone is safe.

“Thank God there was nobody that was hurt it could have been a lot worse than it was, we could have had a real disaster on our hands,” McHugh says.

McHugh also wants to say thank you to all of our fellow broadcasters and for all of the assistance that has been offered to our station. He says we couldn't have been back on the air Wednesday without their help.
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FAIRCHILD (WEAU)-Due to the overnight WEAU tower collapse, the Eau Claire County Highway Department has closed County Trunk Highway H about 0.25 miles south of CTH M in the Town of Fairchild until further notice.

The Highway Department encourages all road users near the closure to use alternate routes until the road is reopened.

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FAIRCHILD (WEAU) - WEAU 13's transmitting tower in Fairchild has collapsed.

"About a mile from here I got a call from Ron Viste at the station, one of the other engineers, and he informed me that the tower is down. The county called him and told him that and it just basically made me sick to my stomach," says WEAU 13 News Chief Engineer, Ron Wiedemeier.

He says when he was headed down to the tower, because of the station going off air, he thought it might just be a power outage but this was what he saw, our two thousand foot tower in eastern Eau Claire County, just outside of Fairchild, on its side. The tower now only stands about 25 feet tall.

About 8:30 Tuesday night when WEAU went off the air several pieces of equipment fell from the sky. WAXX radio is also on the tower and also went off air at the time. The top of our tower is what sends our signal over the air and into your living room. The tallest point, which is about 2,000 feet, now sits in the snow. The tower fell in about three different directions. One part of the tower is across County Road H and won't be cleared until sometime Wednesday.

Firefighters on scene were concerned because a gas tank was leaking and there were live power lines down. The power was shut down and the gas was shut off without any incident.

“There were no injuries, there are no homes around, there was no one around that I know of that even saw it come down. The only damage would be to the TV-13 tower and the building and there’s substantial tree damage from all the cables whipping around, we’re fortunate no one was hurt," says Stacy Tanner with the Fairchild Fire Department.

It's unclear exactly what caused the tower to collapse but the weather Tuesday night was windy and icy.

The tower in Fairchild was contracted back in 1966. It was one of the tallest structures in the country and up to this point, has held strong through the worst Wisconsin weather.

“This is our local landmark and I know everyone will be sad to see it go," says Tanner.

We’re working on alternative plans to bring NBC and local programming back to the Chippewa Valley and beyond.

We will let you know as soon as we have a fix through our Facebook page, Twitter account and right here on weau.com.


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