UPDATE: TDS urges customers to seek new provider - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: TDS urges customers to seek new provider

By Jamie Hersch - bio | email | Twitter | Facebook

MADISON (WKOW) -- TDS Telecommunications is telling a cluster of its customers to look for a new wireless broadband provider.

Since Friday, 147 customers have been out of service after a fire damaged TDS' fixed-wireless antenna and components located on a Prairie Road water tower.

TDS says the City of Madison told them Tuesday the water tower will require significant repairs, which could take months to complete. The company says the exact tower location is critical to the company's ability to offer the line-of-sight fixed wireless WiMAX service.

"Based on our discussions with the City, we anticipate it could take a very long time to repair the damaged tower," states DeAnne Boegli, TDS National Public Relations Manager. "Since this is the only viable tower location TDS can use to serve these homes, and because temporary solutions are not available, our customer's best option is to select another facilities-based communications provider."

TDS says all impacted customers will be able to terminate their service without penalty and the company will remove equipment from customer homes at the customer's request and convenience. TDS also says it will give customers a month's service credit for the disturbance in coverage.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Madison Water Utility public information officer Gail Gawenda says the city is hoping to have a representative in Madison Tuesday from the builder of the water tower that caught fire last Friday.

According to Gawenda, city engineers have contacted Chicago Bridge & Iron Company, the company that built the tower in 1976.  CB&I will try to have an engineer in Madison Tuesday, to inspect the damage to the tower, caused by Friday's fire.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- It took a few seconds for homeowners on Prairie Road on Madison's southwest side to believe their eyes on Friday afternoon. But sure enough, there was smoke billowing from the water tower down the street.

"It was crazy seeing the smoke coming out of the top of it and everything," said Adrienne Sullivan, who lives across the street from the water tower.

The city drained the tower weeks ago to allow for construction both inside and out.

Fire officials say three independent contractors were painting the inside of the tower when sparks from a worker's torch ignited several cables inside the stem of the tower.

All three workers managed to escape and one was hospitalized for minor smoke inhalation.

Once the fire was out, the next concern was a possible collapse.

"We've been watching out our window like, 'Are they pointing [the water hose] toward our house?' because we're directly across the street from it but we're not too worried about it," said Sullivan.

City engineers aren't too worried, either.

"It's really designed to hold about 100,000 gallons of water and right now it's empty, so there's no real concern about the tank buckling or anything like that," said Dennis Cawley, an engineer for the city of Madison's water department.

From the outside, you can hardly tell anything happened. The only evidence of the fire is a few paint chips that peeled off from the heat.

Inside, it's a different story; it will cost about $400,000 to fix the damage.

A water tower specialist will inspect the tower on Monday to find out the extent of the damage and decide what's next for the water tower.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- People living near the water tower are now being allowed back into their homes.

Firefighters say a structural engineer will inspect the tower on Monday.  They say the tower is not in danger of collapsing.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A Madison Fire spokesman says the fire is out.

Fire officials are waiting on a structural engineer, to sign off on whether it's safe to let residents in two-block area back into evacuated area.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Firefighters are responding to a fire at a water tower on Madison's west side.

A spokesperson for Madison Fire Department says they can see black smoke coming from Prairie Road near the intersection of Williamsburg Way and Putnam.

Fire officials say the fire is now under control. Fire officials believe the fire started inside the tower and say it could have started from sparked cables. The water tower does not have any water in it because they were doing work on it.

Fire officials say one person has minor injuries.

City engineers are on scene, they say they do not think there is a threat of the tower falling.

Jamie Hersch is on scene and says crews have evacuated a two block perimeter around the water tower.

Stay tuned to wkow.com for the latest information.

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