Home Crime Investigation Coronavirus: ‘Suspicious’ cell phone tower fire in south Auckland under investigation

Coronavirus: ‘Suspicious’ cell phone tower fire in south Auckland under investigation

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Coronavirus: 'Suspicious' cell phone tower fire in south Auckland under investigation
The cell phone tower fire is under investigation.

Abigail Dougherty/Stuff

The cell phone tower fire is under investigation.

A fire at a south Auckland cell phone tower in the early hours of Tuesday morning is being treated as suspicious.

Detective Inspector Shaun Vickers of Counties Manukau said police were called to the fire on Pah Rd in Papatoetoe at 1.43am, shortly after New Zealand moved out of Covid-19 Alert Level 4.

Similar incidents have been linked to an online hoax linking 5G phone networks with coronavirus.

The fire was put out and police have conducted a scene examination at the site with enquiries continuing.

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Police said criminal damage of critical infrastructure is taken seriously.

Abigail Dougherty/Stuff

Police said criminal damage of critical infrastructure is taken seriously.

At this stage, Vickers said the fire is being treated as suspicious and police are working with Fire and Emergency New Zealand investigators.

“Police treat the criminal damage of critical infrastructure seriously,” he said.

Geoff Thorn, head of the Telecommunications Forum (TCF), which represents the major telcos, said it was concerning that another cell tower had been damaged.

“Not only is this highly dangerous, it also has the potential to cause huge disruption to the homes and businesses in the surrounding area,” Thorn said.

“We condemn all acts of vandalism but it’s even more frustrating to deal with an attack on critical national infrastructure during a time of national emergency.”

Earlier in April, there was a cell phone tower fire in Manurewa.

A video of the alleged incident, which was posted to Facebook but has since been removed, appears to show a man pouring fuel over the exposed cables of the under construction tower.

The incident could be related to the hoax linking 5G phone networks with Covid-19, as another man in the video can be heard saying “F… 5G” and “F… the New World Order” as they drive away from the scene.

A burnt paint bucket could be seen close to the scene on Pah Rd, Papatoetoe.

Abigail Dougherty/Stuff

A burnt paint bucket could be seen close to the scene on Pah Rd, Papatoetoe.

Police believe the incident relates to a report received on April 5 about a suspicious fire in the suburb.

Spark, 2degrees and Vodafone have all experienced threats or actual attempts of sabotage of cell towers, including attempted arson.

4G tower on private farmland at Waiharara, built as part of the Rural Broadband Initiative to bring 4G mobile and wireless broadband to rural New Zealand, was damaged in an arson attack in late March.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was asked about the circulating 5G conspiracy theory at a Covid-19 press conference but said the question didn’t warrant an answer.

She instead sent a clear and direct message to all New Zealanders: “That is not true … I can’t state it clearly enough … it is just not true.”

Anyone with information about the Papatoetoe incident is asked to contact Counties Manukau crime squad on 09 261 1321.
 
Alternatively, they can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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