Quebec’s power utility scrambled to get the power back on when nearly a quarter of a million customers lost electricity Thursday afternoon due to forest fires.
Hydro-Québec spokesperson Maxence Huard-Lefebvre said the power outages were related to heat and smoke from the fires in the North Shore that triggered protection mechanisms in two transmission lines.
On Twitter, the Crown corporation said the power would be restored gradually, and within a few hours, more than 200,000 customers had electricity.
At its peak, 240,000 customers were without power, with Montreal one of the hardest hit regions with 125 outages affecting 93,500 customers. But by 5 p.m., the number of customers across the province affected had dropped by more than 60,000. About 40 minutes after that, only 40,000 were without power.
On Montreal’s South Shore, 42,000 customers lost power, but by 5:45, all but 1,400 had it back. In the Quebec City region, there remain about 5,000 without power (down from 17,000 earlier today). Tens of thousands of homes and businesses in the Laurents and Lanaudière have the power back now, with only about 6,000 still offline.
The power outages Thursday come after some 19,000 customers lost electricity for several hours in Montreal on Wednesday evening. Those outages were due to equipment issues, not the fires, the public utility said.
Meanwhile, a forest fire near Chapais, Que., has forced the evacuation of about 500 homes, almost half the community.
Société de protection des forêts contre le feu (SOPFEU) spokesperson Mélanie Morin told CBC that there are 13 active forest fires are burning in Quebec, with two of them “out of control.”
Back in April, half a million customers lost power in the province. That time, Hydro-Québec said there was a “loss of production” from turbo generators at the generating station in Churchill Falls, N.L., which led to automatic shutdowns on the network.
“The network’s protection mechanisms reacted correctly, which led to the outages,” said spokesperson Cendrix Bouchard at the time.
Earlier in that same month, the province was hit with an ice storm that left more than one million customers without power. Some were without electricity for several days.