Cell tower set on fire north of Montreal

A cell tower in a city north of Montreal was found in flames early Friday morning.

The Laval fire department received a call about a 28-metre metal cell tower behind the Plaza Laval Élysée in the Chomedey neighbourhood around 2:15 a.m. and were on scene until about 3 a.m. to establish a perimeter around the scene. 

“There is major damage on telecommunications equipment on the tower,” the Laval fire department told CTV News Friday morning.  

The fire department originally said the tower was 5G, but later acknowledged that it wasn't on Twitter. 

⚠️ MISE À JOUR // La tour de communication n'était pas une 5G comme le laissait croire les premières infos obtenue des médias.

⚠️ 02:13// Feu à une tour de télécommunications dans le secteur de Chomedey. L’enquête incendie a été confié au Service de police de Laval. pic.twitter.com/sSbbtdxfUa

— APL Pompiers Laval (@APLPOMPIER) May 1, 2020

Rogers Communications, who owns the tower, said on Friday afternoon that it is actually 3G/4G. 

“The safety of our teams, customers and communities is of the utmost importance to us and we are thankful no one was hurt," a Rogers spokesperson said in a statement to CTV News. "We are working with local authorities as they investigate.”

Families from five surrounding residences had to be relocated due to their proximity to the tower, and the investigation has been turned over to the Laval police as the cause of the fire is still unknown. 

"Police were patrolling the area when they noticed smoke in the tower," said Stéphanie Beshara, a spokesperson for the Laval police. "Neighbouring residents were evacuated because we feared that the tower would collapse."   

Cellphone towers have long been the subject of conspiracy theories, as some believe the technology has adverse effects on health. At the beginning of April, several towers in Europe were destroyed as theories began to emerge that 5G cellphone technology – the newest generation of networking – is somehow linked to the COVID-19 virus

The World Health Organization said back in February that “To date, and after much research performed, no adverse health effect has been causally linked with exposure to wireless technologies.”

Theorists claim the virus can communicate through radio waves, “targeting” victims; that it is responsible for the virus’ symptoms; and that it can affect the immune system. They support these ideas by pointing out that Africa, a continent with little-to-no 5G towers, has very few cases of the COVID-19 virus so far. 

Several of the towers that have been vandalized are really just 3G and 4G networks, telecommunications companies have said. 

"There is no fact-based scientific evidence that supports any connection whatsoever between 5G technology and the spread of the Coronavirus," Telus Communications Inc., who has equipment on the tower in Laval, said in a statement to CTV News on Friday. "All electronic emissions in Canada are governed by Safety Code 6, which sets limits for safe human exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic energy and is overseen by Industry Canada and Health Canada."

"In fact, as wireless sites are low-powered by the nature of their technology, many of our sites emit a signal hundreds – or even thousands – of times below what is allowed by Canada’s already-conservative code," the statement continues. 

May 1 is International Workers Day, or “May Day,” – a time when millions of people take part in global protests in austerity against poor working conditions. These protests have escalated to riots in the past, resulting in violence between police officers and civilians, as well as vandalism across cities. 

In Montreal, May Day will be taking place virtually and over the course of a few weeks amid the pandemic – protesters are being invited to create banners and posters and share them online, as well as to space out activities to "attack capitalism." 

"Even if we can’t gather, there are still ways to mark the day, to feel part of a larger whole that has always honoured the spring, always resisted oppressors, and always carried a new world in their hearts," a Montreal anarchist and anti-authoritarian website reads. "Decentralized direct action is a skill we already have, and it can be taken in small groups, which is convenient when the pandemic makes it reasonable to reduce the number of people we’re close to. We propose a two week window centered on May 1st for going out and attacking capitalism – tags, breaking things, liberating stuff, use your imaginination. We are also excited for celebratory actions that honour resistance history and the land. Or both." 

Telus said attacking methods of communications poses a significant threat in general, but particularly so in the context of a pandemic. 

"When vital communications infrastructure is destroyed by criminal acts, lives are put at risk by removing the ability for local citizens to call 911," Telus said. "Our networks are more important than ever during the COVID-19 crisis in enabling Canadians to stay connected to their jobs, schools, medical help, government services, and loved ones." 

With files from CTV News' Solarina Ho. 

SIGN UP NOW

Stay up-to-date and in-the-know by subscribing to one of our newsletters