Lougheed Highway was closed for almost four hours Sunday morning. (THE NEWS/files)

Fire chief wonders why it takes so long to fix downed wires

Criticizes BC Hydro after 2.5-hour wait for crews

B.C. Hydro needs to pick up the pace at which it responds to downed power lines, says Pitt Meadows fire chief Don Jolley.

An older model westbound Nissan crashed into a power pole early Sunday, dragging down power lines dangerously close to Lougheed Highway, shutting down the major road in both directions at about 3:30 a.m.

But it took B.C. Hydro crews about 2.5 hours to make repairs, allowing the road eventually to re-open at about 7 a.m.

“That kind of response time is just not acceptable,” said Jolley on Monday.

“I don’t understand how an organization doesn’t have somebody on 24/7,” he added.

“What I don’t understand is – there is no crew on duty for wires down. We’re looking for a quick response.”

Jolley said that B.C. Hydro relies on private contractors who are on-call to get to accident collisions and re-string the wires or install new poles instead of having at least one crew on standby 24/7 in Metro Vancouver.

“It surprises me that there’s no Hydro staff on duty in the city the size of Metro Vancouver. That’s surprising. Because it takes so long for crews to get to scenes like the Lougheed Highway, closed – completely closed – for at least two hours before they’re on scene, ready to do something about it.”

Jolley understands if there are delays during major storms with dozens of power outages. But he wonders why there’s no one on shift at B.C. Hydro during off hours throughout Metro Vancouver.

It’s an ongoing problem, he added.

Last year, when a vehicle hit a power pole on Rippington Road, firefighters couldn’t do anything until Hydro showed up an hour later.

The public expects quick response to emergencies.

“We’re expected by the public to be there in minutes.”

But fire crews end up waiting on accident scenes until Hydro crews arrive.

A better system is needed, Jolley said, explaining that a crew from Ladner had to respond to last year’s incident.

“Our understanding is, there is no crew on duty for wires down, that’s our understanding. There’s no one on duty waiting to call in the event of a call like that.”

It’s a good thing no one was trapped in the vehicle, Jolley added.

BC Hydro spokesman Tanya Fish however said Tuesday that contractor crews as well as BC Hydro crews, are on call around the clock, throughout Metro Vancouver. Crews are dispatched through the company’s 24/7 restoration centre in Langley. The goal is to have someone on the scene to downed wires within an hour.

Regarding the Sunday incident, BC Hydro got the call at 3:53 a.m. and a powerline technician was on scene at about 5 a.m. A repair crew was then dispatched and power was restored at 12:50 p.m. The accident required replacing of the power pole, she added.

Old Dewdney Trunk Road was an alternative route while Lougheed was closed.

Jolley is also concerned about the response from CP Railway in clearing a road crossing after a cyclist crashed on Kennedy Road in May. He said it took half an hour before trains were moved to allow an ambulance to cross the tracks and get the cyclist to hospital.

He said there’s since been a meeting with CP, Transport Canada and the city reviewing procedures.

“There was a meeting and the issues were discussed and corrections are hopefully going to be made. That’s sort of about it.”

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