Cell phone tower to be taken down following fire

The engineers and owners of a cell phone tower in Gwinnett County that was damaged by fire will begin the process of taking it down Saturday, authorities said.

Fiber optic cable on the tower caught fire Friday afternoon, forcing road closures in the Lilburn area.

A telecommunications company was welding on the 150-foot tower, in the 500 block of Rockbridge Road, when the fire sparked shortly before 3 p.m., according to Capt. Tommy Rutledge with the Gwinnett County Fire Department.

After the fire was extinguished, fighters remained on the scene for several hours and were wetting down the area around the tower in preparation for any falling embers or the possibility of the tower falling, Rutledge said. The tower was leaning slightly and firefighters created a "collapse zone" in the event it falls, he said.

Rockbridge Road was temporarily closed between Arcado Road and Lilburn-Stone Mountain Road while firefighters battle the blaze, according to Cpl. Jake Smith of the Gwinnett County Police Department. Miller Road also was shut down at the intersection of Lilburn-Stone Mountain Road, Smith said.

A crew was dispatched to the scene to cut the power supply to the tower, Rutledge said.

Five homes and a daycare center were evacuated as a precaution. About 20 children and 10 adults were moved to a parking lot across the street, away from the hazardous area, Rutledge said.

Bethany Lee told the AJC her home was one of those evacuated. She and other neighbors were concerned about the possibility of the tower falling, she said.

"I am amazed that it did not collapse," Lee said. "That was our biggest worry because all of our homes would have been in grave danger."

No injuries were reported.