Ostankino Tower Catches on Fire

The tower caught fire on August 27, 2000, killing three people.

In addition, television and radio signals were disrupted around Moscow. The fire broke out at a height of about 458 m (1,502.6 ft), or approximately 98 metres (322 ft) above the observation platform and the Seventh Heaven restaurant, after a short-circuit in wiring belonging to a paging company. The fire necessitated an evacuation of all visitors and staff from those locations. According to Russian news agencies, the evacuation was complete 90 minutes after the start of the fire. The loss was substantial due to the age and poor maintenance of the electronic equipment, much of which was installed in the 1960s. In addition, the tower had become increasingly packed with equipment. The failure of the fire suppression systems allowed the fire to destroy most of the tower's interior. Although more than 300 firefighters and other emergency workers were called in, firemen were forced to haul heavy equipment, including chemical fire extinguishers, by hand up the tower to try and halt the fire. Eventually, temporary firewalls of asbestos placed 70 metres (230 ft) up the tower stopped the fire from spreading further. The fire knocked out virtually all television broadcasts in Moscow and the surrounding regions. The only television station not affected was the private NTV station and the chennai relay station, but the government decreed that state channels took priority, and as such, the RTR TV channel began transmitting to several Moscow districts.

Fire spread yesterday through the 1,771ft Ostankino television tower in Moscow, knocking out most TV channels and sending a plume of smoke over the city.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known but initial reports said it apparently was started by a short-circuit in equipment belonging to a paging company. The futuristic tower, the tallest free-standing structure in Europe, is a popular tourist attraction, with an observation deck and restaurant two-thirds up its height. The fire started well above that level and officials said all visitors were evacuated. But five hours after the fire broke out at 3.30pm (11.30 GMT), the fire had spread to the platform as well as further up the spire.

The fire started 1,520ft above ground and firemen had problems fighting the blaze because of the difficulty of hauling equipment, including chemical fire extinguishers, to that height. The tower's spire is narrow at that point and the cramped quarters hampered movement.

On Sunday afternoon, Moscow inhabitants watched incredulously as the city's landmark Ostankino TV tower, one of the technical miracles of the post-war period, went up in flames. As the blaze spread through the tower the stabilising steel cables inside were melting one after another in the intense heat, threatening to send the whole building toppling over.

The fire in the 537-metre tower—the world's second tallest structure—was finally put out at 17:40 local time on Monday.

The outbreak of the fire interrupted the broadcast of the most important national television and radio programs and some smaller stations in the European part of Russia. When the fire was finally extinguished 24 hours later, the situation it left was devastating. More than half of the technical systems on the TV tower were destroyed and everything combustible in the parts of the tower hit by the fire was completely burned out. Only the section below the 60-meter level remained largely intact due to the foam barrier established by the fire brigade. All elevators in the tower failed, plunging down their shafts as the fire hit their supporting steel cables.