Jasper prepping for ‘extended’ power outage

·3 min read

While the Municipality of Jasper lost power at 4 a.m. on Sept. 5, officials were already working to safely switch critical infrastructure to generator power by the afternoon.

Those sites include the water and wastewater treatment plants, water wells, traffic lights, the hospital and the Jasper Activity Centre.

The rest of the townsite, however, will have to wait.

“Residents and visitors should be prepared for an extended power outage,” said Mayor Richard Ireland during a press conference late Monday morning.

The precipitation on Sunday night dropped three to five millimetres of rain, which helped reduce the size of the Chetamon wildfire from an estimated 8,000 hectares on Sept. 4 to between 5,000 and 7,000 ha by the morning of Sept. 5.

“The wildfire still poses no risk to the Jasper townsite,” Ireland said.

The municipality activated its Emergency Support Services Plan. A reception and information centre was opened at the Jasper Activity Centre at 11 a.m. People can also phone 780-852-6540 for updates.

Parks Canada said that the rain helped to bring about a reduction in both the smoke conditions and the fire’s behaviour.

“The rain did buy us a few days,” said Katie Ellsworth, Parks Canada’s plan section chief on the Chetamon Wildfire.

Firefighters were able to get into critical areas of the wildfire and gained access for ATCO to work on repairing the power transmission line. There’s still much work ahead in the coming days for those firefighting crews.

“Our focus will be to develop control lines along the southern flanks toward the community of Jasper and use traditional sprinkler lines and other appropriate fire tactics,” Ellsworth said.

Parks Canada will be working with partners in Alberta Agriculture and Forestry to investigate the potential of air tanker control and using specialized fire behaviour prediction forecasts to look at fire growth models to better understand the fire’s potential for growth.

For now, the wildfire is still being held 15 kilometres from the townsite, where traffic lights don’t work and restaurants and shops are mostly dark and vacant.

Once the power transmission lines went down, ATCO enacted its own emergency response plan to bring generator power to critical sites.

“Our crews are working as quickly and safely as possible. We expect generator (power) for critical sites to be switched over by early this afternoon,” said Amanda Mattern, regional manager with ATCO Electric.

“Along with our emergency response plan, we are working under the direction from the municipality and Parks Canada to determine the staged approach to bring on additional powerload to other parts of the town.”

Residents were advised to follow some tips to prepare themselves for the extended outage:

For power outage tips, visit ATCO’s website and stay up to date on ATCO’s outage map or download the My ATCO Electricity app for live updates.

Further updates on the wildfire can be found on Jasper National Park’s Facebook page.

Updates from the Municipality of Jasper are available on its website.

For road access updates call 5-1-1 or visit 511 Alberta.

Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh