Thursday’s blackout likely caused by vandalism

Power was out for 10,000 customers from Quick to the Hazeltons for almost 11 hours

Thursday night’s power outage that affected around 10,000 people in the Bulkley Valley and surrounding area from Quick to the Hazeltons was likely caused by vandalism.

“It looked more like vandalism than anything else,” said BC Hydro spokesperson Bob Gammer. “We can’t say conclusively. The crews were just focused on getting the power back on. They don’t have time, and in the darkness, to look around for shotgun shells,”

The location of the damaged insulators was on a pole structure near Quick.

The insulators hold the wires away from the wood pole structure that the line sits up on top of; they are basically the in-between protection layer because the electrified power line would set the wood pole on fire.

“It appears, again we cannot say conclusively, it looks like the insulators were damaged by vandalism. Possibly someone shot at them. It caused the insulators to fail and the pole set on fire and we had an outage,” added Gammer.

This power line feeds the Smithers substation and the line coming out of the Smithers substation goes to Hazelton and feeds that substation so two substations lost their power because of the incident. All of the customers that are fed from the distribution lines that come out of those two substations, about 10,000 customers in total were out.

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The blackout lasted from 6:17 p.m. on Thursday until about 5:10 a.m. Friday morning.

“That is a lot of people to have out for that much time, that is really quite something,” said Gammer.

The crews came from Terrace to get the work done.

“The work was actually done faster than it could have because we were able get a helicopter and did our line patrol looking for the damage with a helicopter instead of having to drive the whole distance. That allowed us to find the damage and get the crew working faster,” he explained.

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“We didn’t fly the crew out, they had to get their truck and drive to it but they knew where to go. That saved time. There is always the risk the outage could have been longer because it could have taken longer, with potentially hundreds of line kilometres and hundreds of structures and you are trying to find a needle in the haystack.”

Gammer added that sometimes BC Hydro does pass along the information to RCMP to open a file if there is more evidence.

“At this point, we just got the power back on and crews need to rest.”


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