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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Small Blaze Sparks a Scare At Ostankino TV Tower

ReutersA policeman talking on his cell phone near the Ostankino tower Friday.
A small fire broke out at the Ostankino television tower Friday in northern Moscow. No one was injured, and television and radio broadcasts were not affected.

The fire broke out shortly before noon, prompting the evacuation of all employees, the Emergency Situations Ministry said.

Small wisps of light smoke could be seen emanating from the 540-meter tower -- the tallest freestanding structure in Europe -- just above the viewing point, which is positioned at a height of 337 meters.

Ten firefighting units were deployed to tackle the blaze, and several firefighters huddled at the base of the tower before entering at around 12:30 p.m. The fire was extinguished at 12:53 p.m., the ministry said. The fire was caused by sparks from welding torches used by workers that fell onto insulating material on the tower's facade 350 meters from the ground, the ministry said.

"Fire safety rules were not followed," a ministry spokesman said.

The importance of the tower is underlined by the security surrounding it: Fire trucks had to negotiate concrete barriers to access the main gate. A fire there in August 2000 killed three people and took national television channels off the air for three days in Moscow.