Fire hits second unmanned radar station: Warning system being watched : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Fire hits second unmanned radar station

Warning system being watched

Susanne Hiller

National Post

National Defence investigators are keeping a close eye on the entire North Warning System after two recent fires at unmanned radar stations in Northern Canada.

"Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times indicates there is a pattern," Captain Tom St. Denis, a National Defence spokesman, said in Ottawa yesterday.

"We haven't hit the third time. I think we are still in the realm of coincidence, although this is unusual enough that there will be a follow up investigation to see if there is any sort of pattern or danger."

The short-range unstaffed radar site at Horton River, located about 300 kilometres east of Inuvik in the Northwest Territories, is being repaired after a minor electrical fire.

An automatic fire suppression system containing fire retardant put out the flames and damage was limited to an electrical cabinet inside the building.

Technicians are currently repairing the site which will return to normal operations shortly, said Capt. Denis.

This is the second fire at a northern radar site this year. A January 10 fire, which burned out of control for three days, destroyed the long-range radar site at Lady Franklin Point on Victoria Island in the Eastern Arctic.

The cause of Lady Franklin Point fire is still under investigation by the Canadian Forces Fire Marshal.

Although the two incidents appear to be unrelated, Capt. Denis says the North Warning System will be monitored closely.

One concern is that because the radar sites are unstaffed fires are detected by sensors in very remote areas. "There is no one there immediately when it happens, so the concern is that the fire will spread as we are getting people out there," he said.

The North Warning System is composed of a chain of about 47 radar stations, stretching from Alaska to Newfoundland.

It provides the North American Aerospace Defence Command with atmospheric surveillance data for northern Canada and Alaska.

The loss of the Lady Franklin station and the damaged Horton River site has not left NORAD with big blind spots. The impact on operations is "minimal", said a spokesman.

The entire North Warning System was modernized in the 1980s at a cost of $1.2-billion.

-- Carl Jenkins (, February 07, 2000



-- (, February 07, 2000.


-- (, February 07, 2000.

Hhhhhmmmm, Automated and unmanned at great savings. Seems we did the same with our intillegence and now can use satellites to show the car's license plate but have no clue as to the drivers intentions.

Smells like some practice runs. A couple of simultaneous "fires" and you get a gap wid enough to drive, hhmmmm let's see maybe an ICBM through.

But then again we have spent great amounts of money to modernize (see "A Y2K Essay below) and restock the bunkers for TPTB. This is all as Capt. Tom St Denis muses a coincidence, I am sure.

-- Squid (, February 07, 2000.

Kind of reminds me of the recent 'modernizations' to the old National Weather Service system.

We used to have meteorologists who knew their local areas, knew its peculiarities. No more. Now we get this disembodied computer-generated voice. Grates on the nerves enough to wean you of listening to the NWS stations pretty quickly. Yeah, I know that the new radars are supposed to have immensely greater coverage, and offer information simply not available before. Maybe so, but it takes humans to interpret the data. Seems like NWS sure budgeted it tight on human resources.

Back to the topic at hand. I agree that two fires in similiar, unmanned installations sure seems to be pushing coincidence, never mind three. Minor degredation of coverage, huh? Uh huh.

It may or may not be pertinent that those radars and whatever supplies them with electricity are pretty far North, and the old Sun has been getting kindof restless in the last few days. Wonder if that modernization allowed for Solar Max?

-- Redeye in Ohio (, February 08, 2000.

Oh and Redeye they scrimped on the Radar coverage and parts of Ohio are not covered by the new system. Bet ya all of Washington has overlapping coverage.

-- Squid (, February 08, 2000.

Squid--- Exactly WHICH parts of Ohio are not covered by WSR-88 equipment, besides the 1/2 mile circle around each one that is. When I sit at the desk in NWSCLE I can see WSR-88 product for ALL of Ohio. To do so means I get to dial up info from a couple of different stations, like Detroit or Pittsburgh, but I can see all of it.

Yes, Cleveland HAS turned a few counties over to other stations because they are closer to the other stations, but I'd be interested in which pieces of Ohio aren't covered.

Understand i am NOT a NWS employee, I just get to sit at their shoulders when it's getting interesting and SKYWARN needs to be operated.


-- Chuck, a night driver (, February 08, 2000.

Squid and Chuck,

I'd also like to know which parts of Ohio aren't covered. Like Chuck, I've seen the overlapped coverage maps, but not the actual NWS screens.

My guess would be southeastern Ohio, especially well south of Salem (down around Minerva and South). Why? Topography. Going from memory, it would seem o me that the Cleveland NWS would be beaming awfully high that far out, and the Pittsburg and Wheeling NWS radars will be almost as poorly positioned to cover those areas. What I am darn tired of is sitting in the basement down in the country during Spring and Summer weather severe enough to trigger Skywarn activation, hearing the same GD tape (on the NWS radio) for 1 to 2 hours, knowing darn well that serious stuff is around, even within audible range, and wishing I could go upstairs and check the TV fora heck of a lot better information! Which is part of why I want to get around to starting up the amateur licensing ladder.

-- Redeye in Ohio (, February 08, 2000.

Seems the radar is the Dopler radar the NWS uses to monitor for storms and tornadoes. There coverage has gaps including sections of Ohio. I will check when time available to get more information. Sure its nice to see the pretty pictures but the most important function of the NWS is to track storms and warn residents.

And as to the fires themselves, could be environmental extremists or somone with to much time on their hands. And is the spokesperson trained at the same place that told us about the NSA problems???

-- Squid (, February 08, 2000.


The hole in the radar coverage wouldn't be useful for an ICBM, they're high flyers and could be spotted on multiple radars. But it sure would be just what an adversary wishing to try and put a low- flyer, such as a Backfire or Blackjack loaded with cruise missiles, underneath the radar curtain.

Ot are they now sending Cessnas loaded with cocaine in from the North Pole?


-- Wildweasel (, February 08, 2000.

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