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19 May 2014

Canada: Regina, Sask: Basement Fire Linked to Installation of Smart Meter

The scene of a house fire started on the 1400 block Oxford St.
in Regina on 8 May 2014 while workers were installing a
smart meter (Photo:  Bryan Schlosser, Regina Leader-Post)
Basement fire linked to installation of smart meter
by Austin M. Davis, The Leader-Post
15 May 2014

A fire started at a Glencairn home as SaskPower workers installed a smart meter on Wednesday afternoon.

"From what we know right now, Grid One (Solutions) was on scene exchanging the meter, upgrading to the smart meter, and accidentally grounded the electrical circuit which resulted in the ignition and subsequent fire," said Gerard Kay, deputy chief with Regina Fire and Protective Services.

Grid One Solutions is one of the contractors working with SaskPower on a large part of the smart meter installation process. Many employees are SaskPower workers but rely on Grid One Solutions' equipment and management expertise.

"Our understanding is that all protocols were being followed by our SaskPower employee on site at the time of the fire," said Tyler Hopson, SaskPower spokesperson.

He added that this is just the third meter-related fire in Regina in the past 10 years.

Hopson maintained that the smart meters and installation are very safe, despite two 2012 fires in British Columbia being linked to BC Hydro smart meters. Fire crews were called to a Coquitlam home over problems with the meter caused minor damage. A month before, a Mission woman's home burnt down a day after meter installation. SaskPower plans to install 500,000 smart meters before March 2015. Hopson said of the approximately 90,000 installations, this is the first incident of its kind. The installations started in 2013 and SaskPower's portion of the program cost $190 million.

Fire crews were called to 1403 Oxford St. at 12:39 p.m. and located a fire in the basement of the bungalow. Crews were forced to retreat twice from the basement due to heat and worked from the outside, pushing out windows and flowing water into the home before being able to get inside.

No one was injured, but Valerie Kobialko was home when the blaze started. The Kobialkos have lived in the house since 1981.

"I was out on the deck. (A worker) was changing the meter and all of a sudden the fire started," Kobialko said.

Her husband Albert was out with friends and returned to fire trucks lining his street, unable to pull into his own driveway.

"I have no idea what to say or do right now. Somebody's got to let me know where we stand right now. Other than that, I just don't know," Albert said.

The Regina department will continue to investigate the fire, along with Sask-Power's electrical inspectors.

adavis@leaderpost.com Twitter.com/theaustinx

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