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Sub-station blaze hits power for thousands

By RICARDO WELLS

Tribune Staff Reporter

rwells@tribunemedia.net

AN electrical fire at Bahamas Power and Light’s Baillou Hills sub-station over the weekend left parts of southwestern New Providence without power for periods up to 12 hours.

The blaze, which was detected around 9.45pm on Saturday, marked the fourth fire at a BPL plant in over a week.

In a statement released by the energy provider late yesterday evening, officials said smoke was initially detected at the 11KV sub-station at the Baillou Hills plant.

BPL employees on duty reportedly attempted to extinguish the fire while calling in support from Police Fire Services, who arrived on site and extinguished the blaze.

The statement read: “Preliminary investigations suggest that the electrical fire in the substation was caused by equipment failure. A full investigation has been launched into the cause of this failure. Foul play is not suspected at this time.”

It added: “As a result of the fire customers in the following areas experienced power outages: Fire Trail, Carmichael, Golden Gates, Pride Estates, Bel Air, Portions of Harold Road, Yellow Elder, Stapledon and Millennium Gardens. Power was restored to all affected customers by 10:00am this morning. BPL’s engineers are currently working to repair the damaged substation.”

BPL said it expects the sub-station to be back in service by this evening, informing customers in the affected areas to expect temporary outages until the work is completed.

When contacted for comment on the recent blaze and extended outage, Bahamas Electrical Workers Union President Paul Maynard yesterday issued a warning of his own, telling the thousands of Bahamians depending on BPL for their energy supply to be prepared for “more of the same”.

Mr Maynard in his warning explained that most of the equipment being at BPL has already “done all it can,” insisting that the company has to get serious about replacing its old machines.

“This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone,” Mr Maynard told The Tribune yesterday. “The boards being used for transmission and distribution have run their course.”

Often outspoken, Mr Maynard added: “These types of issues will continue as long as we depend on this ancient equipment. We need to get serious about making the necessary changes and stop this shock and surprise when things break down.”

Meanwhile, Progressive Liberal Party Chairman, Senator Fred Mitchell in a statement of his own, implored the Minnis administration to provide the Bahamian people with a “full, frank and honest” explanation on the circumstances surrounding the latest fire at the BPL’s Baillou Hill sub-station.

“With four fires in one week,” Mr Mitchell noted,”the public is understandably losing confidence in the current administration’s ability to competently manage BPL and facilitate the much needed energy sector reform this government promised.”

“If the substantive Minister is not up to the task, he should be mercifully relieved of this duty in the public interest.”

He added: “To date be the government has managed to politically interfere with the work of the BPL board and needlessly incurred additional expenses in excess of one hundred million dollars in equipment damage stemming from these fires.”

“This total break down in leadership is inexplicable and inexcusable.

“Dr Minnis said he had no plans or vision for BPL and the voluntary separation exercise, followed by these catastrophic fires are turning out to be a self fulfilling prophecy. We pray that God helps us all in the midst of this haplessness and crisis in leadership.”

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