A major fire at an electrical substation in Chilliwack is now out, and power has returned to the roughly 50,000 customers in Chilliwack and Abbotsford affected by the outage.
All roads in the immediate area of the fire are now open, although Chilliwack firefighters continue mop up operations.
The fire began at around 9:30 Friday morning after a 40,000-litre tank of oil burst into flames at the Atchelitz substation, located on Lickman Road, near South Sumas.
Several explosions at the site sent flames and dense black smoke into the air. 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.
Schools, too, were told to keep children inside as a safety precaution.
According to BC Hydro, the 12 employees at the substation were quickly accounted for and confirmed as safe. As a precautionary measure, four of these employees went to hospital for assessment and have returned to work. The cause of the fire remains unconfirmed and will be investigated. BC Hydro spill response and environmental assessment teams are active onsite and Worksafe BC and local Ministry of Environment have also attended the site.
Work is underway to assess the damage sustained to the transformer and substation as a result of this incident. The damaged transformer holds approximately 115,000 litres of insulating oil and an intensive cleanup operation is now underway.
A thorough incident investigation will be conducted in the coming days and a restoration plan is being developed to replace the damaged transformer and address any other effects of the fire at the substation.
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 – some of it brought in from neighbouring Abbotsford.