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Despite the increase in fires, NL Hydro says it's business as usual at Churchill Falls Power Station

Despite the increase in fires, NL Hydro says it's business as usual at Churchill Falls Power Station
Despite the increase in fires, NL Hydro says it's business as usual at Churchill Falls Power Station

 


The huge multi-colored engine room is 300 meters long and full of machinery.
Only critical personnel remain at the Churchill Falls hydroelectric plant, seen here in 2023, after the town was evacuated due to nearby fires. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada)

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro CEO Jennifer Williams says the power company is monitoring the fires that prompted the evacuation of Churchill Falls, and a skeleton crew is working hard to keep the town's power plant running.

The town of about 750 inhabitants is built around the NL Hydro generating station, which provides electricity to the province and Quebec.

Residents and most workers left the town when an evacuation was called at 7.30pm on Wednesday, but a crew of about 20 employees, support workers and Hydro's own fire crew remained in the community.

“Critical personnel are in place, and we are all extremely grateful that they remain,” Williams said. “They are really good at their jobs and will make sure these assets remain in the best condition possible.”

A press release Wednesday said workers will operate the plant until it is unsafe to do so.

“If things change, we will take the lead and make sure that, as the prime minister said, their safety is paramount,” Williams said.

FRIEND| Williams says things are currently operating at status quo at the Churchill Falls plant:

Churchill Falls Power Station 'operates as normal' despite fire

At a briefing on the fires Thursday, the president and CEO of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro said output at the Churchill Falls power generating station remains unchanged thanks to essential personnel remaining on site. Hundreds of people fled the city Wednesday night after an evacuation order prompted by an out-of-control fire.

Williams said the fire has not forced the plant to reduce its production and Hydro has been in constant communication with customers, stakeholders and the government to ensure they have the latest information.

Provincial bushfire duty officer Bryan Oketold told CBCNews on Thursday the latest available report said the fire was only three or four kilometers south of Churchill Falls.

“If we should get to the point where we think the safety of the employees and the other people, the other provincial resources that are there with the employees, are at risk, a decision would be made to evacuate those people. And they would had some it's time to go into remote mode,” Williams told reporters.

“We would make changes inside the plant, reduce the load, talk to our customers about what it looks like and then proceed to evacuate. Hopefully we don't get there, but we certainly have an eye on it.”

Steps are being taken to have everything ready if an evacuation should occur, Williams said.

That decision will be made by Hydro and the provincial government, Premier Andrew Furey told reporters Thursday.

“The single biggest item in that decision matrix right now would be whether it crosses the river,” he said, adding that wind patterns are currently favorable to prevent that from happening.

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