One week ago to the day, a CP grain train derailed near Field knocking power out to the entire region – leaving residents in the dark but shedding light on an unknown generator issue.
The incident happened just before 2 p.m. on Jan. 26. There were no injuries as a result of the derailment, according to CP Rail.
Crews and equipment were immediately dispatched to the crash site. However, the Town of Field was without power and forced to run on an emergency back up battery.
BC Hydro encouraged residents to reduce their energy consumption to conserve battery supply.
The town’s battery, which was installed in 2013, can typically provide power 20 to 24 hours. However, Kathryn Cameron of the Field Recreation Advisory Association (FRAA) told the Golden Star the battery was operating at about 50 per cent capacity and was only able to provide power for approximately 10 to 12 hours, leaving Field without power overnight.
BC Hydro has looked at the battery, with Cameron stating that some parts will need to be replaced in order to restore full capacity, which she says could take up to four months.
Power was restored about 7 a.m. Jan. 27.
“The reaction in town was that it was a horrible situation…no one likes a derailment, but CP got this one cleaned up and we got our power back pretty quickly,” said Cameron.
“BC Hydro crews worked through the night, replacing power poles and power lines in the winter with the frozen ground is no easy task.”
During the outage, Field Fire and Rescue turned the Field Hall into an emergency warming station, offering food and shelter to those in need of it. An estimated 11 people used the shelter, with no one opting to stay overnight.
Many in town are equipped with emergency generators and propane stoves for situations such as this, Cameron said.
Power outages can happen in Field due to inclement weather, as the wires that bring power to the community are above ground allowing for debris to easily fall onto the line.
Cameron explained that the FRAA is lobbying to have the wires moved underground to prevent future outages, stating the proposed twinning of the Trans-Canada Highway through Yoho National Park could be the perfect time to do this.
There have been multiple reported train derailments in Field over the past few years, most notably in February 2019, when a derailment on the Field hill took the lives of three CP workers.
Cameron said the effects of the 2019 derailment can still be felt by some in the community.
“It’s heartbreaking, whether there’s a relationship or not with those involved,” said Cameron.
Field Fire and Rescue, BC Ambulance and Parks Canada visitor safety were all on the scene to assess the damage of the crash, with Cameron stating the experience had an impact on those people.
“If there are lots of derailments you have to ask what’s causing this,” said Cameron.
“CP has to comply with safety regulations and they have some fairly strict standards to uphold and sometimes it’s beyond CP’s control and sometimes it’s not, as we know from 2019 and what the Transportation Safety Board had to say.”
Cameron said it was lucky that the train involved in last week’s derailment and the one in 2019 were transporting grain and not hazardous materials, such as oil.
Cameron also said the FRAA has what she calls a “realistic” relationship with CP in Field, stating that she knows it has its priorities to keep in mind, but that CP does work with the communities that it operates within.
“It’s not a difficult or cantankerous relationship, it’s realistic, we’re a tiny town along the mainline and we have a community connect line and they’re fairly responsive to it.”
As for the cause of the derailment on Jan. 26, CP is still investigating.