British Columbia

'Dangerous' act of vandalism damages transformers in North Vancouver, BC Hydro says

A vandalism spree in North Vancouver has damaged transformers and resulted in power outages, oil spills, and in one case, a fire, BC Hydro says.

'If somebody is cutting into the side of these pieces of equipment, you're opening up Pandora's box'

A cut is visible on a pad-mounted transformer in North Vancouver. BC Hydro says it believes one person is behind the vandalism of four transformers since April. (BC Hydro)

A vandalism spree in North Vancouver has damaged transformers and resulted in power outages, oil spills, and in one case, a fire, BC Hydro says.

At least four pad-mounted transformers have been vandalized since April in the Mount Seymour and Parkgate areas, the utility company said Wednesday.

The green, ground-level transformers provide electricity to houses. They all had "deliberate" cuts made to them and one had holes drilled in it. 

Due to the proximity and similarity in each incident, one person is believed to be responsible for all of the damage — which is estimated at $150,000.

It's not known why someone would cut into the transformers, but BC Hydro says nothing was stolen from the boxes during the vandalism.

"If somebody is cutting into the side of these pieces of equipment, you're opening up Pandora's box," said Jonathan Knowles, public safety lead at BC Hydro.

"There are so many things that can go wrong. It's so dangerous. You could create a grass fire. It's just not a good situation."

Power outages, oil spills

All of the vandalized transformers are along the edge of the Northlands Golf Course. The damage happened on April 2 and 24, May 1 and July 2. Power outages from the incidents affected up to 185 customers. 

Cutting into a transformer is an incredibly dangerous thing to do, Knowles said.

The transformers have about 12,500 volts of electricity, he said. Turning on a light in your house, for example, uses just 125 volts of electricity. 

Aside from the risk of electrocution, cutting into the metal cover can release up to 1,000 litres of mineral oil that cools the equipment inside.

There are so many things that can go wrong. It's so dangerous. You could create a grass fire. It's just not a good situation.- Jonathan Knowles

If the oil leaks out, the equipment should shut down. If it doesn't, Knowles said it can overheat and explode or catch fire — which happened in one case.

Knowles said the RCMP are now looking into the incidents and BC Hydro is being "vigilant" with security. 

"It's completely beyond me why someone would commit such a dangerous act," Knowles said.

"It's a danger to them, a danger to the public."

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