By Sara Moulton
Free Press Staff
A small fire at BC Hydro’s Fernie substation was the cause of a major power outage which disrupted services to over 5,000 residents on the weekend.
The outage began at 12:15 pm on Sunday, December 16 when passers-by noticed smoke emerging from the substation facility. It was later discovered that a small piece of equipment had caught fire. BC Hydro responded to the situation and power was restored to most properties by 5:30 pm.
The timing of the blackout coincided with Fernie Alpine Resort’s ‘Community Day’, which offered free lift tickets to local residents. With a large crowd on the mountain and lifts halted without warning, guests were stranded for up to 30 minutes while diesel generators were brought out.
Andy Cohen, the general manager at the resort, praised his staff for their fast action in clearing the lifts and announced that replacement tickets were available to those who had been at the mountain during the outage.
“I’m proud of my team for unloading the lifts as fast as possible; they did what they had to do and got everyone down safely,” said Cohen.
“Snow checks will be offered to anyone who was affected today.”
One such resident was Matt Frost, who has lived in Fernie for three years but due to work commitments has not purchased a lift pass this season. The community day was an opportunity for him to snowboard with friends without having to purchase a ticket for the day. Another local, Blair Forsyth, was on the Bear Chair at the time of the outage and had to wait while the lifts were run one-by-one to clear the passengers.
“I was on my way up to the Cedar Bowl when the lift just stopped. It took about half an hour before I finally made it to the top,” said Forsyth.
Although the incident was an unexpected one-off event, Diane Tammen from BC Hydro urged residents of the Elk Valley to be prepared for power outages, particularly during the winter season.
“Our website www.bchydro.com has information about preparing your house or business for an outage,” said Tammen, community relations manager for the East Kootenay region.
“BC Hydro responded as quickly as possible to the event, but in our climate, it is important for all residents to be ready to deal with an outage.”