Resident calls on NSP to move power line following fire
Resident calls on NSP to move power line following fire.
A business operator in the Neils Harbour area is calling for the relocation of a power line from a wooded area after a tree falling on the line caused a wildfire Wednesday.
Osborne Burke, general manager of Victoria Co-operative Fisheries Ltd., said people in the area have been advocating for the repositioning of the line for years, saying its location is responsible for repeated lengthy power outages.
“The big issue in this area with continual power failures that we’ve been having is the stretch from Black Brook Bridge generally down to Neils Harbour because the power line is off the road in the woods and Nova Scotia Power … I guess they don’t want to spend the money to bring the gosh-darn power line out to the road,” Burke said.
“What the hell are they going to do for the people of northern Cape Breton, taking those poles and putting them out by the road like they’ve been doing in other areas?”
Burke described conditions where local NSP crews have had to travel through waist-deep snow in blizzard conditions to respond to outages. He said they’ve raised the issue over the years with Nova Scotia Power and they responded by stepping up tree trimming. Trimming vegetation along the lines is important, he said, but doesn’t go far enough to rectify the issue.
Crews battled a wildfire near Neils Harbour on Wednesday but managed to get it under control before it could spread. The four-hectare fire started late Wednesday afternoon about a kilometre south of Buchanan Memorial Hospital inside the Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
Nine Department of Natural Resources firefighters, Parks Canada staff and a number of local volunteer fire departments responded to the scene.
Burke said at one point during Wednesday’s fire, officials considered evacuating the hospital.
He noted the co-op has a generator for its lobster pound but it had to shut its production facility down early for the day due to the loss of power, which he said is not good for equipment
“I guess they don’t want to spend the money to bring the gosh-darn power line out to the road.”
- Osborne Burke, general manager of Victoria Co-operative Fisheries Ltd.
or for employees who lost hours of work as a result.
Burke stressed he recognizes the hard work done by local linesmen in the area.
In an email, NSP spokesperson Tiffany Chase wrote that, due to gusty winds, a tree fell on a power line in the Neils Harbour area, resulting in a pole fire that quickly escalated in the very dry ground conditions.
“Our crews immediately responded, however, the fire was at a scale larger than our crews could safely manage,” Chase wrote. “Department of Natural Resources took over fighting the fire, and once we had confirmed it was extinguished, we safely restored power to affected customers.”
Chase said the private utility has increased tree trimming and right of way widening in the area over the past few years and spent $1 million in Victoria County last year, to minimize the risk of tree contacts on power lines.
“These lines run through a heavily-treed area of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, and therefore we need to balance our goal of providing a reliable service to customers and maintaining the natural forested areas of the park,” Chase said.
She said the tree that fell was located outside of the right of way. NSP was back onsite in the area again Thursday to identify other potential tree hazards that should be trimmed or cut back to reduce the risk of similar outages.
Chase said the power line is not currently slated to be moved.
“We will continue to closely monitor service reliability in this area,” she said. “If reliability continues to be challenged we would then look at other, more costly measures such as moving the line itself. We also have to take into consideration the aesthetics of such infrastructure against the backdrop of the national park setting.”