WINNIPEG – Manitoba Hydro is shipping two large industrial generators by rail to Pukatawagan to allow residents, evacuated in mid-July because of forest fires, to return home safely as work to replace about 80 fire-damaged poles begins.
“Nobody wants to be away from home for longer than they have to be,” said Jeffrey Betker, Manitoba Hydro’s Vice President, External & Indigenous Relations and Communications. “Fortunately, because the fire missed a rail line to the community, we’re pleased residents can begin planning to return home while crews rebuild the power line.”
Approximately 2,000 Pukatawagan residents were ordered to leave July 14 when a wildfire threatened the northern community. The same wildfire damaged 77 wood poles and a power line serving the community, cutting the supply of electricity.
The two 1,500 kW generators are currently en route from Alberta. Fuel for the generators, plus replacement poles and other materials needed to rebuild the line, are also being shipped by rail. Under current plans, the earliest residents may begin returning home is the second week of August.
Cyril Patterson, Manitoba Hydro’s Director of Rural Operations said the terrain — steep cliffs, marsh, and wood poles to be set into rock — makes full restoration to Pukatawagan challenging.
“We’re really lucky the fire didn’t damage the rail line,” Patterson said. “The size and weight of the generators we need to bring into the community mean rail is the only way to get them there — no aircraft could manage that kind of load. Our goal is to get the community powered up so residents can return home as we rebuild the line. The damaged poles are in a remote area with no road access, so we’ll rely on helicopters to bring in crews and equipment to do a lot of the work.”
Manitoba Hydro is providing regular updates to the leadership of Mathias Colomb Cree Nation and other agencies such as Indigenous Services Canada, Manitoba Wildfire Service, and the Canadian Red Cross. Generators will be in place until full repairs are completed.