Confirmation by Fire Chief of Smart Meter involvement in one of Sunday’s Fire:

BC Hydro's highly-controversial smart-meter program is once again in the limelight after suspicions that a newly-installed smart meter may have been the cause of a house fire in Coquitlam early Sunday.

Smart meter at centre of investigation

 

Acting fire chief points to meter's base plate; BC Hydro said fire caused by an overload

 

By Kendra Wong, Coquitlam Now August 8, 2012

BC Hydro's highly-controversial smart-meter program is once again in the limelight after suspicions that a newly-installed smart meter may have been the cause of a house fire in Coquitlam early Sunday.

BC Hydro's highly-controversial smart-meter program is once again in the limelight after suspicions that a newly-installed smart meter may have been the cause of a house fire in Coquitlam early Sunday.

At approximately 1: 37 a.m. on Sunday, the Coquitlam fire department received a call from a homeowner saying that there was a fire on the exterior of his home on Darwin Avenue.

The minor fire had already been extinguished by the time fire crews arrived. While the fire did not penetrate the home, there was smoke damage on one side of the home.

According to Jim Ogloff, acting Coquitlam fire chief, the fire originated around the base plate, a four-pronged socket that smart meters are plugged into.

"The fire itself was located around the electrical meter base," said Ogloff, adding that the fire department concluded it was an electrical fire.

The home on Burke Mountain recently had a new smart meter installed on July 3, raising concerns that the meter may have unexpectedly caused the fire.

However, BC Hydro is standing firmly behind the $930-million smart-meter program and said the base plate wasn't the cause of the latest Coquitlam fire.

"Our current review strongly suggests that it was an overloaded service at the customer's house and was in fact unrelated to the meter and the meter exchange process," said Gary Murphy, chief project officer of BC Hydro's smart metering program. "We're still doing our due-diligence and will let the customer know that there could be an unsafe condition in his home that is causing his service to be overloaded."

According to Murphy, electrical service into a person's home is rated by their amount of energy consumption, which is determined by the type and amount of appliances in a person's home.

He noted that over the years, homeowners who add new appliances and accessories such as hot tubs, pool heaters and base-board heating are responsible for contacting BC Hydro and electrical contractors about the increase in energy consumption so that they can provide additional metering, if necessary.

"If you don't update your panel, meter board, and potentially the wiring, you're going to overload the service that we provide," said Murphy.

BC Hydro installers are also required to do visual inspections of the meter base to make sure its sound before installing the new meters.

The company has also replaced close to 1,000 old metering boards free of charge when they were discovered during the switch from analogue devices to smart meters.

"This particular incident looks like there were other underlying causes than the meter base issue," said Murphy.

While the official cause of the fire is still under review, the homeowner remains responsible for any damage to his home.

The fire is the second in weeks after another faulty base plate allegedly caused a large fire that burnt down a woman's house in Mission on June 15, just one day after the meter was installed.

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