PRINCE RUPERT, BC –
Officials have now identified a beaver as the cause of a June 7 outage that left many residents of northwestern BC without internet, landline and cell service for more than eight hours.
The beaver nibbled its way through an aspen tree that then fell on both BC Hydro lines and a Telus fiber optic cable strung along BC Hydro poles between Topley and Houston.
The resulting power outage affected only 21 customers, but the fiber damage affected Telus customers in Burns Lake, Granisle, Haida Gwaii, the Hazeltons, Kitimat, Prince George, Prince Rupert, Smithers, Terrace, Thornhill, Houston, Topley, Telkwa, Fraser Lake and vanderhoef.
CityWest, the utility company owned by the city of Prince Rupert, also suffered from its customers because it uses the Telus fiber line.
BC Hydro official Bob Gammer said the crew identified a beaver as the culprit because of chewing marks on the bottom of the fallen tree.
The lines are in a swampy area and with the high water levels there was some difficulty reaching the site, he added.
“It’s unusual, but it happens every once in a while,” Gammer said. “So I wouldn’t be a rich man if I got a nickel for every beaver disturbance, but they do happen.”
He said it is not uncommon for utilities to share pool space.
The felled tree did cause a fire, which was responded to by members of the Topley volunteer fire department.
While some enjoyed the disconnected afternoon, the outage caused stress for others as many businesses could only accept cash.
“It was a real plague. Normally nobody carries cash anymore,” said Brett Johnson, an auto technician at the Petro-Canada gas station, located at the intersection of Highways 16 and 37 near Kitwanga.
“People turning north onto Highway 37 usually fill up at this gas station because the next two hours is a drive,” he said.
During the outage, there were some who were out of cash and just needed to “take a chance,” Johnson added.
Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain said cellular service was affected because some cell towers use fiber optic connections that allow for higher bandwidth.
And he said Northwestern communities are vulnerable because there is only one fiber optic cable between Prince George and Prince Rupert.
But that will change, as CityWest is laying a second fiber optic line along the coast to connect with Vancouver.
“So if another tree falls, we’ll all still have internet through the line coming out of the ocean,” Brain said.
-With files from Jane Shrypnek