Firefighters investigate the cause of a wide-spread power outage that affected most stores in Discovery Harbour Shopping Centre.

Bird shorts out mall power

Firefighters received several 9-1-1 calls reporting smoke inside Reitmans clothing store

A bird was the culprit of a wide-spread power outage Friday afternoon that shut down most of Discovery Harbour Shopping Centre.

Ian Baikie, acting fire chief, said firefighters received several 9-1-1 calls reporting smoke inside Reitmans clothing store and burning smells in both Staples and Zellers.

“Reitmans was very smoky, we used fans to blow it out,” Baikie said. “Zellers had a really strong odour but not smoke and I was told Staples had a strong odour.”

Fire crews arrived at the mall around 2:40 p.m. and were on scene for just more than an hour and a half. The majority of businesses were without power and forced to close their doors for nearly two hours.

Stephen Watson, spokesperson for BC Hydro, said 129 hydro customers were in the dark including the mall, Discovery Harbour marina and nearby residences.

“BC Hydro believes it was a bird contacting two phases of the three-phase power line on the pole located behind Canadian Tire,” Watson said. “What happens is when a bird takes off from the power cross-arms, the wing span can contact two pieces of equipment or power lines and cause a fault.”

Baikie said the outage was spotty because some of the stores in the mall run off one of the three phases on the power pole, while some run off two and others use all three.

Those businesses, especially ones with refrigerators, that have motors that use all three phases to power their stores would have been the most severely impacted. Baikie said the motor would have heated up, and started to smoke, causing the electrical smells in Reitmans, Staples and Zellers which was closed at the time to make way for Target, expected to open in the spring of 2013. Businesses that rely on the one unaffected phase of the power line still had power.

Watson said Hydro repaired the damage done to the power line within hours so merchants could get their stores back up and running.

“BC Hydro crews replaced the blown fuse and another piece of equipment at the top of the pole,” Watson said. “Crews then slowly and safely restored power in sections to the customers.”