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Electrical fire forces bridge closure

Oct. 25, 2017, New Westminster, B.C. -Crews were scrambling to reopen a local bridge in New Westminster, B.C., that was closed when an overnight fire destroyed high voltage electrical cables under it, setting off commuter chaos on Wednesday.

Officials say the blaze forced the closure of the Queensborough Bridge, which connects New Westminster to Highway 91, a key commuter link in Metro Vancouver.

Mayor Jonathan Cote says B.C.'s Ministry of Transportation determined the fire did not cause structural damage to the bridge and it is expected it will be partially reopened to traffic sometime in the afternoon.

''There's no doubt this incident has created significant disruption,'' Cote said of having to close a bridge that carries about 80,000 vehicles daily. ''Our priority right now is the residents in Queensborough who are without power and making sure that things are in place to deal with, potentially, a long power outage.''

The fire damaged power lines, knocking out electricity to the Queensborough community, shutting down schools and businesses and affecting about 20,000 people living in the neighbourhood.

The City of New Westminster manages its own electrical utility, and Cote says it's unclear how long it will take to restore power.

Rod Carle, head of the city's electrical utility, says crew are assessing the damage to determine if power lines can be repaired, rerouted from the other side of the bridge or if they will need to install temporary power lines.

He said a repair could take up to 15 hours and the city is working with BC Hydro to explore options to deliver power from other substations.

''They're currently looking at their system now to determine if we could back something up if we had to,'' he said.

Carle added that other telecommunications lines are also carried across the bridge, but it's unclear if that infrastructure was damaged.

Fire officials say it may be impossible to determine the exact cause of the blaze.

October 25, 2017
By The Canadian Press