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Top Stories of 2012: Explosion, fire darkens Chilliwack

A transformer holding more than 100,000 litres of oil went up in flames at a BC Hydro substation on Lickman Road on Jan. 27.  - JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS FILE
A transformer holding more than 100,000 litres of oil went up in flames at a BC Hydro substation on Lickman Road on Jan. 27.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS FILE

It was an ominous plume of black smoke shooting straight up into the air that could be seen all over Chilliwack.

A major electrical substation fire early in 2012 knocked power out across the city, and took what seemed like forever to clean up.

The fire erupted on Jan. 27 when a 40,000-litre tank of insulating mineral oil burst into flames at the Atchelitz substation, located on Lickman Road, near South Sumas Road.

More than 50,000 customers in Chilliwack and Abbotsford were without power for most of the day.

Explosions at the site sent flames and dense smoke into the air, and most of the mineral oil spilled out.

At one point city officials were warning residents to stay inside, close their windows and turn off their furnaces to prevent toxic smoke from being drawn inside.

Firefighters from throughout the region were called to the scene in efforts to contain the blaze. Fire retardant foam was applied to the burning oil with some of it brought in from neighbouring Abbotsford.

A dozen employees at the substation were quickly accounted for and confirmed as safe, and four went to hospital for assessment.

The cause of the fire was investigated but a report never released. BC Hydro spill response and environmental assessment teams worked with Worksafe BC and local Ministry of Environment.

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