Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative reporter | [email protected]
ATCO is facing challenges restoring power to the town of Jasper as firefighters continue to battle the blaze north of town.
By Wednesday evening, power had returned to two-thirds of the city’s approximately 5,000 residents. Thursday morning around 9:45 a.m., the power was cut again.
This was the result of one of the many technical difficulties encountered by technicians dealing with the generator power system.
“The complexity of integrating generator power into a utility system to a community of this size and scale is extremely challenging and our team of experts is working on these technical aspects,” said Amanda Mattern, regional director of ATCO Electric, during a daily press briefing on Thursday morning. .
Generator power is not as reliable as the transmission system, she said, and many factors can affect the system.
The biggest challenge is building a system with equipment from different vendors and getting all the controls to communicate with each other without tripping the system.
“Connecting a generator power system would normally require weeks of engineering, design and testing before we could go live as we respond to the crisis to support the city,” Mattern said. .
“We have to work on coordinating these technical aspects on site with our team of experts.”
Mayor Richard Ireland said the situation remained precarious.
To help reduce the load and allow more of the community to receive electricity, the municipality returned to operating its sewage treatment plant with its own standby generator capacity.
“We still don’t have a reliable and consistent generator provided by ATCO and current community electricity will be redirected to the sewage treatment plant if needed,” Ireland said.
“If demand for electricity exceeds capacity, we will again have to make decisions to limit the band to ensure that critical services can be supported.”
Firefighters on the south side of the wildfire are said to have made progress laying down hoses and sprinklers, and also clearing brush and trees with manual ignition to connect an already existing firebreak. Air tankers requested from Alberta Wildfire safely dropped a retarder on Wednesday.
The wildfire is still estimated at 5,500 hectares and a full damage assessment to ATCO’s transmission infrastructure is underway. The reconstruction could take up to several weeks depending on the extent of the damage. If the wildfire continues to spread, further damage could be incurred.
Residents and businesses can expect generator power during this time.
Most shops and restaurants are now closed due to the outage. Bank branches are also closed, and grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies and the post office offer reduced services, where available.
The public is told that now is not the time to visit Jasper.
Parks Canada has extended some of the closures to ensure the safety of people and forest firefighting operations. Campground closures in particular help conserve the electricity that ATCO is working to provide to the city.
“Currently the power supply is unreliable and even the incident command post is out of power,” said Katie Ellsworth, chief of the Chetamon Wildfire plans section for Parks Canada.
The situation offered unprecedented challenges and all responded with unprecedented determination, Ireland said.
“The residents and businesses of Jasper have shown remarkable adaptability, resilience, goodwill, kindness and calm in the face of the current calamity. But even as parts of the city are revitalized, these admirable features must endure. We are far from having overcome this emergency.
All Jasperites are urged to use energy sparingly by doing the following:
- turn off lights and additional appliances;
- minimize the use of air conditioning or heaters;
- reduce the use of washers, dryers, stoves and dishwashers;
- use cold water to wash clothes; and
- delay the charging of electric vehicles or use trickle chargers.
The Jasper Activity Center drop-in center expanded its services today in response to the evolving situation. From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., residents will find:
- information from Parks Canada, ATCO and the Municipality;
- charging stations for electrical apparatus;
- Complimentary hot soup served 12-3 p.m. while supplies last
- access to a microwave; and
- access to a hot shower subject to availability.
Cooler temperatures and smoke in the air are forecast for Thursday, but temperatures are expected to rise and dry air will return around the weekend.
Below are links for more updates and other resources: