Opposition calls for action after 5 SaskPower meters catch fire

The NDP opposition is calling on the provincial government to take action after five homes in the Regina area caught fire due to SaskPower meters.

SaskPower says older homes at higher risk

Fire crews were called to a home on Parkland Drive in Regina over the weekend after a SaskPower meter caught fire. (Stephanie Taylor/CBC)

Five homes in the Regina area have caught fire in the last week caused by SaskPower meters. Now, Saskatchewan's opposition party says something needs to be done to ensure safety.

Cathy Sproule, deputy whip and Crown critic with the NDP, said the lack of action by the governing Saskatchewan Party when it comes to SaskPower, is comparable to last year's Husky oil spill, in which the provincial government delayed their response.

"SaskPower is responding, as it does, but the government has said absolutely nothing about this," Sproule said.

NDP's Cathy Sproule says the governing Saskatchewan Party should do more to keep the public safe when it comes to SaskPower. (CBC News)

According to SaskPower spokesperson Jonathan Tremblay, the Crown's electric meters can catch on fire when the ground pulls on the electric cables plugged into them, but he said it's extremely rare.

Tremblay attributes the fires to the dry weather in Regina over the last six or seven weeks, which he said could have moved the ground up to eight inches, exposing the electric cables.

In older houses, this electric cable is made of copper, so while the electricity can still go from the cable to the house when exposed, it can cause a fire. All five of the recent fires have been in houses that are 50 or 60 years old.

Despite regular updates from SaskPower, Sproule said more is needed from leaders.

"We know the reason why but the question is, what is being done about it? That's something where I think the government needs to reassure people of Saskatchewan that the appropriate responses are being put in place," she said.

If your meter is tilted like the one in this image, it could be because ground settling has pulled down the electric cables. (Supplied by SaskPower)

In each case, firefighters and SaskPower were on the scene in minutes, Tremblay said.

Since Friday, four teams from SaskPower have inspected at least 400 homes in Normanview, Glencairn and Uplands.

"We are inspecting the whole province now," Tremblay said. Inspections across Saskatchewan will not be to the same degree as the inspections in Regina. 

Customers are asked to do visual inspections, especially if they have underground service or an older house. Tremblay said homeowners should check if their meter is tilting to one side, if there is a new hole in the ground. Customers are urged not to touch the meter or do repairs themselves and instead to call SaskPower.

While SaskPower says they plan to install new and improved smart metres throughout the province in 2018, Sproule said safety and cost are two prominent concerns.

"When we see our rate increases going up repeatedly for our SaskPower usage, we need to know that we're going to be safe as well."

With files from CBC Radio Canada's Audrey Neveu