Fire at Manitowaning Hydro distribution site cuts power to 2,560 residents over 15 hours

Fire rages at a Meredith Street Hydro One distribution site. The conflageration cut power to over 2,500 residents for over 15 hours on Sunday. photo by Dave Ham

Wiikwemkoong invites everyone affected to nice hot meal at community’s high school

MANITOWANING—Over 2,500 customers were left in the cold on Sunday, January 14 as the Hydro One distribution station in Manitowaning caught fire that morning.

The distribution station, which was under construction, is currently utilizing a mobile unit and it was a portion of this unit that caught fire causing a power outage at 8:03 am and affecting 2,560 customers in the areas of Bidwell north, Bidwell south, Billings, Sheguiandah south, Assiginack, Wiikwemkoong, Tehkummah, Sandfield and Carnarvon.

Assiginack Fire Department got the call at approximately 8 am, according to Fire Chief Dwayne Elliott.

“We showed up on scene and contained the area,” he told The Expositor, noting that the fire department worked under the direction of Hydro One crews.

Fire crews were on scene for six hours, utilizing spill kits to contain any oil or other contaminates that may have leaked from the mobile distribution unit.

Additional Hydro One crews were brought in to assist with repairs with a new mobile unit brought to Manitowaning via float from Parry Sound. Power was restored at just after 11 pm.

While crews worked on the fire, Highway 6 to Cardwell Street was closed to traffic.

Warming stations were set up at the Wikwemikong High School, with the community rallying together and making it an occasion, complete with a turkey and whitefish dinner. Assiginack did not have a warming station set up at the onset, with Chief Duke Peltier sending an invitation to his Assiginack neighbours to join them in Wiikwemkoong. By Sunday evening, Assiginack opened up its arena as a warming station, with coffee and treats available to all those without an alternative source of heat thanks to the organizing efforts of the Assiginack Fire Department, which had by then extinguished the fire.

Fire Chief Elliott noted that the crews also went door to door in Manitowaning, checking on the community’s more vulnerable citizens, as well as making phone calls.

“We were there (at the arena) until the power went on,” the fire chief added.

In Tehkummah, the fire hall was open as a warming station.

While Billings was listed by Hydro One as affected by the outage, municipal officials were not aware of any outages in the municipality. However, when an outage in Billings does occur, the Kagawong Park Centre is the warming station, since it is heated by geothermal means.

Central Manitoulin did not have a warming station.

Community Services Officer Constable Marie Ford reminds everyone that when such an event occurs, those who are concerned for the well-being of a friend or loved one are urged to contact the Ontario Provincial Police and request a welfare check and an officer will be dispatched to that person’s home. They can do so by contacting 1-888-310-1122. In case of an emergency, call 9-1-1.

Hydro One reports that the Manitowaning distribution centre is being upgraded with a new transformer. The work began in mid-November. The anticipated completion date is mid-spring and “should increase capacity and reliability,” Hydro One reports.