A Tour of the KFI Transmitter Facility

As you travel along Interstate 5 between Norwalk and Buena Park, California, you can't miss this tall radio tower out there in La Mirada. This is the transmitter facility for clear channel station KFI Los Angeles, 640 KHz, 50,000 watts.

These photos were taken during a private tour on March 16th 2002, arranged by some of the station engineers who are also ham operators.

This is the outside of the transmitter building at KFI. It's been here since 1948.

You can see two large terminals on the wall. They were once used for open feedline to the tower. Today the tower is fed using an underground feed system going under some industrial parking lots.

The building has somewhat of an art deco look, and the high levels of craftsmanship show in the tilework spelling out KFI, and in the iron railings.

A closer view of the tilework.

Inside at the transmitter control board. During our tour, power was reduced from 50,000 watts down to 2500 or so because we'd be in close proximity to the tower.

Hey, take a look at that: an MFJ antenna tuner up there on the left!

There's the primary tower. It's 750 feet tall and is the original one since 1948. There was once a second tower, which was later removed. There is also a secondary 250 foot tower, used as a backup. (I didn't take pictures of it.)

This tower has been hit by lightning twice, has fried birds who perched where they shouldn't have, and base jumpers even tried climbing up the thing... while it was "hot" (transmitting). One time an airplane hit one of the cables, but none has ever hit the tower. The nearby Fullerton Airport and this tower "grew up" together, so pilots have always been well aware of this structure and try to stay clear of it for good reasons.

Official notices, including the FCC identification for the structure.

Here's the base of the tower. It's insulated from ground and the whole length radiates. The small building is the tuner house. Notice the loopy things at the tower base? They are Austin Ring Transformers. This allows them to supply 117 volts to the navigation beacon lights without effectively grounding the tower.

Looking up the 750 foot tower. Click here for a larger image. The tower is in sections that are 20 feet tall, bolted together. It must have been some job putting that thing up!

While this is a fairly tall tower in itself, it pales in comparison to towers elsewhere in the country where there are no mountains. Towers there are often 1200 feet tall and serve all kinds of transmitter facilities.

Now we're over at one of the three moorings for the guy lines. Two go up from here to different points on the tower. There's over 20,000 pounds of stress on these cables!

Another view of the guy line mooring. The blocks you see partway up are just wood blocks, used to help secure the cabling and then just left there.


This tower became history on December 19, 2004. A small rented plane enroute from El Monte to Fullerton struck the tower, which collapsed. The two people in the plane were killed.

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Dave Bartholomew
This page and all photos here are Copyright © 2002-2004 David G. Bartholomew, AD7DB.
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