NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — An overnight fire on a local bridge in New Westminster, B.C., left thousands without power and caused significant delays for commuters making their way to work Wednesday morning.
Officials say the blaze forced the closure of the Queensborough Bridge, which connects New Westminster to Highway 91, a key commuter link in Metro Vancouver.
Mayor Jonathan Cote said B.C.'s Ministry of Transportation determined the fire did not cause structural damage to the bridge but high voltage electrical cables under it were destroyed
"There's no doubt this incident has created significant disruption," Cote said of having to close a bridge that carries about 80,000 vehicles daily.
A city spokeswoman said Wednesday that three of the four lanes were reopened by Wednesday afternoon.
Officials say restoring power would take longer.
"Our priority right now is the residents in Queensborough who are without power and making sure that things are in place to deal with, potentially, a long power outage," Cote said.
The fire damaged power lines, knocking out electricity to the community, shutting down schools and businesses and affecting about 20,000 people living in the neighbourhood.
The City of New Westminster manages its own electrical utility, and Cote says it's unclear how long it will take to restore power.
Rod Carle, head of the city's electrical utility, says crew are assessing the damage to determine if power lines can be repaired, rerouted from the other side of the bridge or if they will need to install temporary power lines.
He said a repair could take up to 15 hours and the city is working with BC Hydro to explore options to deliver power from other substations.
"They're currently looking at their system now to determine if we could back something up if we had to," he said.
Carle added that other telecommunications lines are also carried across the bridge, but it's unclear if that infrastructure was damaged.
Fire officials say it may be impossible to determine the exact cause of the blaze.