The CCGS Sir John Franklin is an offshore science research vessel and helped escort three BC Hydro technicians to Bella Bella on Jan. 7. (Photo: Facebook)

The CCGS Sir John Franklin is an offshore science research vessel and helped escort three BC Hydro technicians to Bella Bella on Jan. 7. (Photo: Facebook)

Coast Guard escorts BC Hydro crew through storm to Bella Bella

Heiltsuk First Nation blackout lasted nearly three days

At the request of the province, the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) escorted a BC Hydro crew to Bella Bella to restore power to the Heiltsuk First Nation, on Jan 7.

The First Nation was hit by a storm on Jan. 5 knocking out power at 4:34 p.m. to the island community, which lasted for nearly three days. Crews were able to restore power on Jan. 7 at 10:30 a.m., Dave Mosure, BC Hydro community relations officer, said.

At the time of the request from B.C., the CCGS Sir John Franklin was on search and rescue patrol in Fitzhugh Sound and was rerouted accordingly, the CCG stated in an email to The Northern View.

“Thankfully BC Hydro responded in a timely manner and we got power back on,” Frank Brown (λáλíya̓ sila), Heiltsuk First Nation hereditary chief, said.

“It was a test to our community commitment and the community came together in a good way to take care of each other,” he said.

Members of the Nation gathered at the island’s big house during the outage where a generator provided power to some buildings and served hot meals for those in need such as elders.

“There were no other methods of transporting crew to Bella Bella, helicopters couldn’t fly,” Mosure said, adding the coast guarded stepped in due to weather conditions.

“The Franklin proceeded through 65 knot (125 km/hr) winds, an eight-foot wave height and freezing spray to pick up a three-person BC Hydro crew in Bella Coola on Thursday evening,” the CCG stated.

The Franklin, the newest ship in the region brought into the fleet in 2019 is an offshore science research vessel, has since returned to a search and rescue posture, Kiri Westnedge, CCG communications advisor, said.

This was the “first time” Mosure has ever heard of the coast guard assisting BC Hydro in any capacity.

The CCG often does humanitarian work and also plays a role in providing emergency health services in the region, Michelle Imbeau, CCG communications advisor, explained, adding she was not sure if this was the first time the CCG had assisted BC Hydro.

The cause of the outage is still unknown but has been described as “storm-related” by the provincial corporation and more information is still pending, Mosure said.

The remote region experiences about one power outage a year, usually due to winter storms such as this one, Brown said.

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Norman Galimski | Journalist
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