Officials have determined that a beaver was to blame for a June 7 outage that left many people in northwestern British Columbia without internet, landline, or cellular service for more than eight hours.
The beaver pecked through an aspen tree, which fell on both BC Hydro wires and a Telus fibre-optic cable line stretched between Topley and Houston on BC Hydro poles.
Customers of CityWest, the utility firm controlled by the City of Prince Rupert, were also impacted because it uses the Telus fibre optics cable.
According to BC Hydro official Bob Gammer, crews identified a beaver as the culprit due to bite marks at the bottom of the downed tree. However, he noted that the wires are in a swampy region, and accessing the site was difficult due to high water levels.
“It’s unusual, but it does happen every once in a while,” Gammer said. “So I wouldn’t be a rich man if I had a nickel for every beaver outage, but they do happen.”
He stated that utilities frequently share pole space.
The toppled tree caused a fire extinguished by members of the Topley Volunteer Fire Department. While some people loved the unconnected afternoon, others were concerned because many establishments could only accept cash.
“It was a real nuisance. Nobody usually carries cash anymore,” said Brett Johnson, an auto technician at the Petro-Canada gas station near Kitwanga.
Rupert, Prince of Wales Mayor Lee Brain, stated that cell service was disrupted since certain cell towers employ fibre connections, which allow for greater capacity. He also said that northwest communities are susceptible since only one fibre optics line connects Prince George and Prince Rupert. However, that will change as CityWest builds a second fibre optics route down the coast to link with Vancouver.
“So if a tree goes down again, we will all still have internet through the line coming in from the ocean,” said Brain.