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Hydro office closure worries fire chief

Elie district office to close in March 2014

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The impending closure of Elie’s Manitoba Hydro office has the area’s fire chief worried.

Firefighters battling a residential blaze or responding to a car crash sometimes have to contact Manitoba Hydro to have power lines disabled so they can safely respond to the emergency.

RM of Cartier fire chief Dan Bouchard said the danger of downed live wires can hinder firefighters’ efforts. He’s concerned that it will take longer for Manitoba Hydro field staff to get to emergencies within the municipality after the corporation’s district office in Elie is closed next March.

The Elie location is one of 12 rural district offices to be closed within the next few months, with 12 more slated for closure by March 2017. According to Manitoba Hydro, closing the rural offices will save about $2 million, although all affected employees are to be redeployed.

"If they take these offices away, we’re not going to have the people available," said Bouchard.

He said it can take over an hour for Hydro workers in Portage La Prairie to be contacted and arrive at an emergency in the RM of Cartier.

Manitoba Hydro public affairs manager Glenn Schneider confirmed that, following the Elie office’s closure, the closest Hydro staff will be headquartered in Portage la Prairie. However, he said the corporation typically identifies field staff working closest to any emergency situation, contacts them and directs them to attend to the emergency.

While some Manitoba Hydro employees living in Elie may decide to stay in the community, most emergencies usually require a field crew to respond, rather than one person, Schneider added.

Bouchard plans to monitor Hydro workers’ response time after the Elie office closes.

"We’ll keep an eye on it and see."

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