Power to return to rest of Jasper this evening: ATCO

·4 min read

While approximately half of Jasper became reenergized late Tuesday evening, the other half has been left sitting in the dark for close to 60 hours.

Many homes and businesses are now relying on gas generators to keep the food from spoiling in their fridges and freezers.

ATCO told them to keep their fingers crossed for Wednesday night.

“As long as we don't encounter any further technical challenges today, we anticipate power to the remaining sites this evening,” said Amanda Mattern, regional manager with ATCO.

“That would then be everybody on generation.”

That good news came with a few provisos: everyone is still asked to keep their power usage to a bare minimum. Mattern also said that none of this is considered permanent power. There are 18 power structures that have been damaged.

“Rebuilding of the transmission infrastructure can take up to several weeks and residents and businesses can expect to be on generator power during this time,” she said.

A complete analysis of the impact of our infrastructure was also anticipated by Wednesday evening. Once that damage assessment has been completed, ATCO will enact its infrastructure rebuild plan.

The wildfire is still being held at least 15 kilometres from the townsite and is estimated to be approximately 5,500 hectares around its perimeter.

That decrease in size comes from the cooler temperatures and some precipitation that arrived on Monday and Tuesday.

“The downtrend in weather has allowed us with a brief opportunity to make good progress on securing firelines that are most to the north and the south of this wildfire,” said Katie Ellsworth, Parks Canada’s plan section chief on the Chetamon Wildfire.

“We've been able to, with the reduction in fire behaviour, have firefighters on the ground, laying hoseline and hotspotting and suppressing those active areas on the fire that are closest to our populated areas. We do wish to remind everyone, however, that this downtrend in weather is not significant enough to consider this wildfire under control. We do anticipate some increases in fire activity in the coming days.”

The crews have also installed a high-volume sprinkler system along the community wildfire guard in Jasper taken purely as “a preventative and precautionary measure.”

Ellsworth made clear that there is no risk of the wildfire directly impacting any community.

While the fire crews battle the blaze and ATCO works on restoring power, Mayor Richard Ireland had a message for everyone outside of the park gates: “Now is not the time to visit Jasper.”

“We will not be welcoming and are not able to welcome visitors to Jasper until we are connected to the main power grid,” Ireland said.

“We need help from all Jasper residents and all Jasper businesses to manage the powerload. This means using as little power as possible so we can maintain power to as many Jasperites and as many Jasper businesses as possible.”

The Municipality of Jasper's operations department will conduct daily solid waste pickup to accommodate anticipated food spoilage due to this extended power loss. People can refer to Alberta Health Services for information on how to deal with perishable foods.

During the various phases of the town’s reenergization effort, everyone is asked to only use approved generator equipment and to make sure that they are tied in by a certified electrician to eliminate any back feed into the system.

“Again, we want to remind residents and businesses once power has been re-established, conservation of power is extremely important as the reliability of generator power can be unpredictable,” Mattern said.

ATCO offered some simple energy saving measures to help reduce the potential of unplanned future power outages:

• Turn off extra lights and appliances.

• Minimize use of air conditioning or heaters.

• Reduce the use of washers, dryers, stoves and dishwashers.

• Use cold water for washing clothes.

• Delay charging electric vehicles or using trickle chargers.

The Reception Centre at the Jasper Activity Centre has also expanded its services today and will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. There, visitors can access:

• information from Parks Canada, ATCO and the Municipality;

• charging stations to power devices;

• free hot soup being served from noon to 3 p.m. (while quantities last);

• access to a microwave; and

• access to a hot shower as availability allows.

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