Lights go out in Yellowknife after fire trips transmission line

Snare hydro system
An aerial view of an element of the Snare hydro system.
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A city-wide power outage in Yellowknife Thursday was the result of a transmission line being disrupted by a wildfire near the Snare hydro system.

Crews have been working on the fire in question for several weeks now roughly 65 kilometers north of Behchoko.

Read: Fire near Snare system out of control, could threaten assets

While the dam itself was never in jeopardy, officials were aware that other assets – like transmission lines – could become threatened by flames or smoke in the region.

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After the fire was deemed out of control earlier this month, crews conducted a burnout operation to prevent it from growing further.

On Thursday, the Northwest Territories Power Corporation admitted that a city-wide power outage in Yellowknife was in fact caused by a disruption to one of its lines.

“The initial outage [Thursday] was caused by a forest fire up by the Snare to Yellowknife transmission line,” said Pam Coulter, communications manager with the power corporation.

“When there’s a lot of smoke around and the gas that smoke and fire creates, it can trip our lines. At this point we don’t know if there’s damage or not.”

Coulter says crews will be checking the line Friday morning to see if it sustained any damage. It remains to be seen if the line was burnt or simply tripped due to smoke.

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Meanwhile, a second outage Thursday afternoon was the result of an ‘equipment failure’ at Yellowknife’s Jackfish diesel plant.

Coulter says crews will also be looking into that sometime Friday. In the meantime, the city is being powered by diesel from Jackfish and hydro from the Bluefish hydro plant.

The transmission line from Snare can’t be re-energized until crews assess any potential damage.

Residents are being asked to conserve power as much as possible while crews work to get the community off diesel power.

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