BC Hydro decommissioning 2 electrical vaults after Vancouver explosion

WATCH: BC Hydro says it is decommissioning two electrical vaults similar to the one that exploded in Downtown Vancouver in February. Hydro is still investigating the cause but says its equipment is safe despite the decision. Kristen Robinson reports.

While a “complex investigation” into the cause of an underground electrical vault fire in downtown Vancouver last month is still underway, BC Hydro is decommissioning what it says are the only two similar electrical vaults in the province.

Repairs to the iconic Marine Building continue, three weeks after a fiery explosion outside injured two people and damaged the heritage structure.

The west side of the 300-block of Burrard Street remains temporarily closed along with businesses JJ Bean and Tractor, while Brass Fish Tavern has been able to stay open.

“It was a bit of a scary incident,” tavern assistant general manager Harleigh Atkinson said.

“We’re just really grateful too that the locations right in front of the vault were closed when it happened and that nobody in the restaurant was hurt as well.”

On Feb. 24, a BC Hydro electrical vault that, unbeknownst to JJ Bean owner John Neate, was directly underneath his sidewalk patio on Burrard Street, suddenly exploded into flames.

Dashcam video posted to the Chinese platform Xiaohongshu recorded the moment the fireball erupted and shot up to four storeys high, followed by an explosion.

BC Hydro said it doesn’t anticipate having any answers until at least the end of April, but the the provincial Crown corporation is taking two similar electrical vaults in Vancouver offline.

“Our infrastructure is safe but out of an abundance of caution, despite the fact that there is a low risk for a similar incident with these two remaining vaults, that abundance of caution is we want to go in and we want to remove that equipment while we await the results of the investigation,” BC Hydro spokesperson Kyle Donaldson told Global News on Friday.

Crews are already working to decommission one of the two vaults on Gilford Street near Henshaw Lane by this weekend. That equipment provides electricity to about 350 customers in the West End.

The other vault on Keefer street between Gore and Jackson avenues serves some 250 customers in Chinatown and will be taken offline by the end of the month.

Customers in both neighbourhoods will experience some planned power outages as the vaults are decommissioned, BC Hydro said.

The equipment in the Burrard Street vault was destroyed in the blast, according to the Crown corporation.

“Knowing that it could have exploded when we were walking by at lunch hour or just going to JJ Bean is definitely nerve wracking,” area employee Alex Steele told Global News.

“So glad to hear that they’re decommissioning the other two.”

“Were all pretty happy to hear that they’re taking precautions to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” added Atkinson.

BC Hydro insists what happened with its Burrard Street electrical vault was a rare occurrence, and its equipment is regularly inspected and routinely maintained.

The utility provider also said it has reached out to businesses which sustained damage from the explosion, and is committed to working with them or their insurance companies during the claims process.

Customers served by the two soon to be out-of-service electrical vaults will be moved to another connection on BC Hydro’s grid.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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