BUTTE FALLS — Until just few days ago, simply phoning home while walking through the city park was impossible. But now, with completion of the town's first cell phone tower, residents can push a button and call around the world.

BUTTE FALLS — Until just few days ago, simply phoning home while walking through the city park was impossible. But now, with completion of the town's first cell phone tower, residents can push a button and call around the world.

U.S. Cellular spent about six months building the new 120-foot tower on a mountaintop just north of town.

Friday afternoon, the company hosted a celebration party in Ernest W. Smith Memorial Park.

"I can't believe it," said Carol, a Butte Falls resident who didn't want to give her last name. "We actually have cell phone service in Butte Falls now, which is amazing. It's hard to believe that we had no coverage before."

Shortly after the tower was activated on May 30, a curious Carol and her husband drove their 4-wheel drive truck up the long gravel road for a first-hand look.

"It's huge!" she said. "I admit I'm a country bumpkin, but I was standing right under it and it's probably a normal-size tower, but I've never seen anything like that."

"We're always analyzing where and why we need sites," said Calvin Emigh, U.S. Cellular's director of sales for Oregon. "This was a cell site that expanded the company's existing footprint and has a very large coverage area."

Emigh said company engineers have been able to hold onto calls from Highway 62 near Prospect, all the way south, to Highway 140.

"What we're able to provide is communications," he said, "and of utmost importance is emergency services."

Butte Falls Fire Chief, Jeff Gorman, is glad the tower has arrived.

"It's most definitely a good thing for what we need to do," he said.

His department is a member of Southern Oregon Regional Communications (SORC), an emergency dispatch center providing service to 29 police and fire agencies within the Rogue Valley.

"I've found out from SORC that we can be paged on our cell phones, and that's always one of our weak points up here," Gorman said. "The coverage we had from SORC for 'toning out' our department (alerting them to an emergency services call) just wasn't reliable."

Although his department hasn't seen it yet, Gorman worries about a possible increase in calls for help.

"It's certainly going to help our public safety operations," he said, "but we're expecting to get more calls because people driving by are going to be calling 9-1-1 more often, with stopped cars and things like that."

Troy McConnell, owner of the Butte Falls General Store, looks on the bright side.

"Sure, sometimes people can be annoying, but it's a good service," he said, "and we've waited a long time."

McConnell's store has been chosen as the local distributor for U.S. Cellular telephones.

"It not only helps our company," said Emigh, "it also allows revenue to stay in the town of Butte Falls."

Bill Miller is a freelance writer living in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@yahoo.com.