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Mayor says wildfire, power grid problems mean visitors should avoid Jasper

The Canadian Press
Mayor says wildfire, power grid problems mean visitors should avoid Jasper

JASPER NATIONAL PARK – The mayor of Jasper, Alta., is asking visitors to stay away from the town and national park as a nearby wildfire is expected to grow and crews work to restore power.

Richard Ireland says the restoration of electricity through temporary generators has been rife with technical problems and the Chetamon Mountain fire, about 15 kilometres away, has made the situation precarious.

Ireland says ATCO is assessing the extent of the damage to its overhead transmission line, but the utility says repairs could take several weeks.

He says the municipality is now operating the wastewater treatment plant on its own backup generator in order to ensure power is available for residents.

But Ireland says power for the community will be redirected to the treatment plant if needed, and limits on use may be necessary if demand exceeds capacity to ensure critical services are supported.

ATCO regional manager Amanda Mattern says crews were able to restore power overnight to more than two thirds of Jasper, but another outage occurred a few hours later due to the challenge of integrating generator power into a transmission system.

“Connecting a generator power system would normally require weeks of engineering, design and testing before we would go live,” she said. “As we respond to the crisis to support the town, we have to work through the co-ordination of these technicalities on site, with our team of experts, to help stabilize the power system.”

Mattern says Parks Canada will escort the utility’s crews to the affected area when it is safe to do so.

Katie Ellsworth of Parks Canada says the wildfire is estimated at 55 square kilometres and is expected to grow without significant rainfall.

“We would like to echo and reiterate the mayor’s messages, that it is not the time to visit Jasper right now.”

More closures of campgrounds are expected to ensure the public’s safety and to conserve the power ATCO is providing, she said.

“Currently, the power supply is unreliable and even the incident command post is out of power, aside from the 911 contact centre.”



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