Calgary hydro pole fires knock out power, delay flights



CALGARY -- Dozens of flights were delayed Sunday after power outages in the northeast and southeast affected the Calgary International Airport.

Several poles caught fire, leaving some 5,400 customers in the northeast without power from 3:30 a.m. to 6:30 a.m., Enmax spokeswoman Doris Kaufmann-Woodcock said, adding more pole fires left customers in the southeast without power around 5:40 a.m. for about 20 minutes.

Those outages resulted in the airport's emergency backup generators to kick in and, in turn, caused delayed flights and long lineups.

Most affected flights were delayed no more than 30 minutes.

Kaufmann-Woodcock said the airport didn't suffer a power outage, but its systems may have reacted to the outages around it.

"It is possible, and this is speculation, that the events happening on the Enmax system could have triggered the problems they experienced," she said, adding Enmax technicians will work with airport officials to determine why it happened.

"Their internal systems shouldn't be reacting when power is still flowing," Kaufmann-Woodcock said. "The Enmax technical staff will assist them in the investigation to understand the sequence of events to prevent a future occurrence."

The pole fires were caused by a buildup of salt used to keep ice off the roads, she said.

"Typically we don't have weather this warm in February. Essentially what you have is salt contamination is sprayed up on to poles from passing motor vehicles and when we get heavy snow or rain, it conducts electricity, the pole heats up and a fire occurs."

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