Ground shifting has caused another fire in a power meter box in north Regina.
Regina fire crews were called out at 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning to a house on Price Crescent where a power box was sparking. SaskPower responded to deal with the situation immediately after.
Johnathan Tremblay with SaskPower confirmed this was the 10th case of a power box fire this year that was caused by the ground shifting and stretching the wires inside. In other situations, the pressure from ground shifting caused power outages.
This one was unusual because it happened at a newer home that would normally have aluminum wiring that melts under pressure instead of copper wires.
“However there had been done some previous work in the customer’s power box where that older copper wire was spliced in there, and in every case where we’ve seen a fire, it’s usually because there is copper in that power box,” Tremblay explained.
He noted that in newer homes, the aluminum wiring in power boxes leading up to power meters was designed to melt under pressure as a safety measure which would cause a power outage instead of a fire. Tremblay said SaskPower discovered the flaw causing the fires in power boxes this summer was the copper wire used on houses built in the 60s and 70s that would spark instead of melting.
“That’s why we made the call that we were going to inspect every house in that age range that may have that copper wire,” Tremblay said.
According to Tremblay, SaskPower crews have completed in the range of 15,000 to 17,000 inspections on houses since the issue started this summer. He said the incidents of outages and fires caused by ground shifting have dropped over that time as crews installed temporary fixes to the power boxes.
Tremblay added that SaskPower is still taking regular calls from customers reporting power boxes that were leaning or pulling away from houses due to ground shifting.
“We’re still sending out new inspections to those. We also have a lot of people in the field making permanent fixes on the thousands of customers’ (homes) we had to remove the power box from,” Tremblay said. “So we made a temporary fix, we’re going back with a permanent fix.”
Going forward, Tremblay said SaskPower is developing a multi-year program to monitor the situation closely.