A partially scorched tree branch rests across a transformer and wires after causing an electric short with flames and sparks in Campbellton Wednesday.

Blaze averted after transformer sparks

Fallen branch on BC Hydro transformer causes flame, sparks near wooded area in Campbellton

A potential brush fire was averted Wednesday after a loose tree branch fell across a pair of BC Hydro transformers and caused sparking and a small flame in a wooded, industrial area in Campbellton.

“I just heard a buzzing and was looking around to see where it was coming from,” said Dallas Forbes, part of a Vancouver Island Paving Co. crew installing blacktop across Perkins Road from the power pole. “I saw those three (transformer) boxes and saw a flame coming out.”

Forbes’ crew boss promptly called 911 and grabbed a small hose the paving crew had on hand to spray down the brush around the power pole until firefighters arrived.

“We stayed there until these guys showed up,” Forbes said, with a nod to the fire department members, “then we got out of their way.”

The pavers also yelled across the corner to the Az-Tec Freight office to alert employees. Pam Stevens pulled out her phone to shoot pictures as firefighters hosed down the trees and heavy brush below the pole.

“It didn’t amount to much — fortunately,” said Stevens. “Some sparks came out and there was actually a candle flame, a little bigger than a candle flame. It kind of smelled like something was melting.”

When the fire department arrived, members found the fire out and one transformer breaker tripped. An evergreen bough rested across a line connecting two of the transformers, which had caused the circuit to arc and create the sparks and flame before the breaker tripped, acting fire department captain Mark McKenzie said.

“Our main job at that point was to hose down the brush real well, in case there were any more sparks,” said McKenzie.

Vancouver Island has been under an open fire ban due to hot, dry conditions that have prevailed throughout much of the spring and summer, boosting the threat of flame or sparks potentially jumping from a transformer.

The fire department called BC Hydro to send a crew to remove the branch and reset the breaker, and waited on the scene until its arrival.

McKenzie said a contract crew had been at the site one day earlier trimming hazard branches from the trees around the transformer pole, and said it was possible a cut branch had been hung up in the tree before shaking loose.

Whatever the cause, he was glad there was not more for his crew to do.

“They’re easier to put out if they never start,” he said.