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Bensalem Cell Tower Coming Down After Fire, Evacuations

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BENSALEM, Pa. -

A 118-foot tall, AT&T communications tower was badly damaged during a wild midday fire in Bucks County that did not kill or injure anyone but caused a ruckus and made for an incredible site.

The communications tower nearly 12 stories tall on the 2200 block of Byberry Road was fully engulfed in flames and billowing smoke late Friday morning.

"Please avoid the area. More to follow," Bensalem police tweeted just before noon, then adding, "Area is be evacuated for precautionary measures."

Bensalem officials say a maintenance crew was working on the tower shortly after 11 a.m. when the fire started.

One official said, "I'm not exactly sure how it caught fire. I do know they were working up there. So whatever happened started the fire."

The tower is located on municipal grounds right near the Bensalem Public Works building, but there are homes nearby. Residents were awe struck.

Before long, the steel tower began to lean to one side. Officials worried it might crash to the ground and catch surrounding trees and weeds on fire.

They evacuated the senior citizens from a nearby retirement home for a time, moving dozen residents of the far end of the complex.

It wasn't until after 2:30 p.m. when word came that the fire was out. Police kept Byberry Road will closed between Hulmeville and Knights roads for some time, and they said cell phone service and electricity should not be affected.

Later, it was a 300-foot perimeter that remained around the tower to keep folks safe.

Next came the job of delicately dismantling the damaged structure. By Friday night, a crane was in place. Officials said they hoped to have the tower dismantled before dark.

Officials said at a press briefing that they believe a maintenance crew on that tower was doing welding work, and that welding touched off some insulation.

The workers were about 80 feet up. The insulation caught fire about 90 feet up, making it impossible for those workers to get at or do anything about the flames.

They repelled to safety, but of course the tower went up in flames. Quite a mess, but no one was killed or injured, and amazingly this is a back-up tower for 9-1-1 systems in Bensalem. No emergency police or fire radio traffic was impacted by the fire.

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