Gas leak in West Fernie, May 9, 2017.  File photo

Gas leak in West Fernie, May 9, 2017. File photo

Fernie holds dubious record for number of gas line hits

32 instances of damage to the town’s natural gas lines in the past three years

Fernie has one of the worst track records for damaging natural gas lines in the Kootenays.

According to gas provider FortisBC, there have been approximately 32 instances of damage to the town’s natural gas lines in the past three years.

“This is a concerning number because it is one of the highest when compared to other municipalities in the Kootenay region,” said FortisBC spokeswoman Diana Sorace.

It comes after two gas leaks at residential properties in Fernie in two days, which tied up firefighters for several hours and affected about 12 people in total.

On May 28, the City of Fernie issued advice urging residents to avoid the Aspen Crescent area after a gas line was struck and three properties were evacuated.

The following day, a similar incident occurred at Piedmont Crescent.

Fernie Fire and Rescue Chief Ted Ruiter said, in both instances, gas lines were not located prior to ground disturbance work being undertaken.

“Three staffed vehicles responded for each incident from Fernie Fire Rescue,” he said.

“This is an unnecessary cost and ties up resources for other responses.”

Ruiter said negligence was usually the cause of gas line damages but difficulty locating old infrastructure had also proved a problem in the past.

“Take the time to plan out all work and follow best practices for any digging where services are present, starting with a call to BC One Call,” he said.

In 2017, there were more than 1200 incidents of natural gas line damages from excavation across the province.

Sorace said more than 90 per cent of these were preventable.

“FortisBC’s natural gas system delivers vital energy to homes, businesses, schools and hospitals every day,” she said.

“When a natural gas line is damaged, it can have serious consequences and interrupt service.

“It is important to remember that whether you’re excavating, gardening or even planting a tree, you stay safe and avoid unexpected costs by notifying BC One Call before commencing any work.”

FortisBC’s steps for safe digging:

1. Click or call: Click on bconecall.ca or call BC One Call at 1-800-474-6886 to make an e-ticket locate request a minimum of two business days before you start your project. BC One Call will notify all member companies that have buried utilities in your dig area.

2. Review: Within two to three business days, FortisBC will provide you information to safely locate gas lines. Review it before digging.

3. Clarify: Need help understanding where it’s safe to dig? Call FortisBC at 1-888-822-6555 and they can walk you through the details.