SaskPower crews have wrapped up their inspections of meter boxes in three neighbourhoods of Regina where fires were most likely.
The Uplands, Normanview and Glencairn areas were most susceptible for the boxes to spark, pop, smoke or even start flaming. Persistent hot and dry conditions throughout the summer have resulted in ground movement.
A total of nine meter box fires were reported, all of them in Regina.
SaskPower’s Jonathan Tremblay said while inspections continue more than 15,000 inspections have been carried out so far including 2,000 in Moose Jaw.
“We’re pleased to say that the areas in Regina at highest risk of an incident with fire are addressed so it’s much less likely we’ll see that kind of incident,” he said, adding more than half of boxes inspected in these neighbourhoods required fixing.
Tremblay said power boxes were either fixed on site or crews applied a temporary fix to hold for now until they can come back at a later time to complete the work.
The crown brought geotechnical engineer Wayne Clifton to explain soil conditions in the Queen City. He called the current conditions sort of a perfect storm after years of heavy moisture.
“The soil conditions in Regina are a little bit like a sponge,” said Clifton. “The soil was swelled out to its maximum extent. It’s now drying to its maximum extent and the result is movement in the underground utilities.”
Clifton said now that the ground is drying it’s moving downward, sticking to the wiring and pulling that down. Older homes in Uplands, Normanview and Glencairn had copper wiring, which meant when the wires separated from the boxes, fire was a possibility.
Tremblay said they’re now turning their attention to the next priority areas: Albert Park, Coronation Park, Mount Royal, Dieppe and Parliament Place.
He explained how the wiring is different in these neighbourhoods.
“They may still have an incident where the wire gets pulled out and damaged. However, these are made of aluminum and they’re designed to fail and melt, so it doesn’t cause a fire. It causes an outage, maybe some smoke,” said Tremblay.
SaskPower is also handling calls from customers outside of those areas who may have concerns about shifting ground around their power boxes.
To date, Tremblay said this issue has cost the crown $2 million. He said SaskPower will spend as much as needed to ensure safety for customers.