BC Hydro crews worked to cut trees damaged by a wind storm away from power lines on 5th Street SE in Salmon Arm late into the night on Feb. 1. (File photo)

BC Hydro crews worked to cut trees damaged by a wind storm away from power lines on 5th Street SE in Salmon Arm late into the night on Feb. 1. (File photo)

Shuswap windstorm a reminder to clear trees from hydro lines

BC Hydro stresses keeping safe distance, provides routine pruning around power lines

Recent power outages in the Shuswap served as a reminder of the importance of maintaining trees near hydro lines.

Strong winds and falling branches were to blame for many of the outages experienced on Saturday, Feb. 1 that left around 3,500 hydro customers without power – in some cases for up to 12 hours.

Salmon Arm Fire Chief Brad Shirley said he saw quite a few trees down on power lines along Foothills Road.

“We also had a tree come down just in front of our fire hall in Gleneden at Firehall #4,” said Shirley. “That ripped the service wire off the building and that wasn’t restored until the following day, Sunday.

Shirley said Saturday’s windstorm kept all the fire halls busy, the majority of the calls involving hydro lines down or sparking or arcing. He explained firefighters respond to downed power lines as they’re a public safety concern.

“Even though there might not be a fire, if the line is down on the ground and it’s not known if it’s live or not, it’s for the public safety that we attend and wait there until such time BC Hydro confirms it’s not a hazard or they’ve dealt with it and they can release us.”

Read more: Thousands without power in Salmon Arm and area

Read more: Salmon Arm homes without power following downed hydro lines

Read more: Video: Man trapped in elevator following power outage

BC Hydro spokesperson Jen Walker-Larsen confirmed most of the outages in Salmon Arm were caused by trees or branches blowing into or falling on power lines, “which is pretty typical during that type of event.”

“Sometimes strong wind can move the lines too and if they connect with a tree branch or slap together, that can also cause outages,” Walker-Larsen said in an email.

Asked who is responsible for keeping trees on private property cleared from hydro lines, Walker-Larsen said it’s up to the property owners to maintain trees and other plants on their property that could interfere with electrical equipment like power lines, service wires and transformers. She says property owners can do their own pruning as long as they keep themselves, their equipment and all parts of the tree at least three metres away from a power line.

“But if any part of the tree or hedge is within three metres of a power line, they should call a Certified Utility Arborist or call us at 1-800-BCHYDRO (1-800-224 9376),” explained Walker-Larsen. “We routinely prune trees that might grow into our power lines on a regular cycle, and we use pruning practices that maintain the health of the tree while ensuring the security of the power line.”

On its website, BC Hydro offers guidelines to help homeowners landscape their yards, and plant the right tree in the right place to avoid outages and safety hazards.

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