Rural areas go dark

More than 4,000 Central Alberta electricity customers were in the dark on Wednesday morning after separate incidents, including a power pole fire, knocked out power in the area.

More than 4,000 Central Alberta electricity customers were in the dark on Wednesday morning after separate incidents, including a power pole fire, knocked out power in the area.

Some residents in Penhold, Innisfail, Lacombe and Blackfalds lost power early in the morning after one power pole near the Penhold multiplex caught fire and another power line insulator came off the line near Blackfalds. Power for the majority of residents was restored by as early as 7:30 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Fortis Alberta spokesperson Jennifer MacGowan said the Blackfalds/Lacombe area outage was caused by a combination of rain affecting the dirt and silt on a power line, and the insulator of a pole, which eventually led to the outage.

“It is very common in the spring of every year,” said MacGowan. “It caused the insulator to burn off one of the poles.”

The incident took place in the early morning hours of Wednesday. It affected about 1,100 rural customers north and west of Blackfalds. By 3:30 a.m., almost half of the customers had their power back with full power being restored by 7:30 a.m.

Then at about 4 a.m., Penhold firefighters were called to a power pole fire near the Penhold Multiplex. Penhold fire chief Jim Pendergast said the fire was on a pole near the intersection of Hwy 42 and Waskasoo Avenue in Penhold, just across the street from the multiplex. The pole was split in half, taking out power to 3,300 customers.

Because of what could happen mixing water with electricity, they had to wait for Fortis personnel to get on scene. A home about 300 metres west from the power pole was evacuated as a precaution.

“They thought there was a spark at their house as well,” said Pendergast. “So we sent a unit to that location and checked everything out. Everything was OK.”

The house was checked with a thermal imaging camera and after no danger was found, the residents were then allowed to return.

MacGowan said the combination of dirt, silt and rain caused the pole fire.

Firefighters and local RCMP blocked off the highway until Fortis said it was OK to reopen the highway. They had to replace the pole, and that work was completed by Wednesday afternoon.

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