An unfortunate bald eagle hit a powerline, burst into flames and sparked a grassfire in Metchosin Wednesday afternoon.
Shortly after 4 p.m. above Happy Valley and Rocky Point roads, an eagle’s wingspan likely crossed two powerlines, surmised Metchosin firefighter Capt. Eric Meredith.
Residents living across the street heard an explosion and simultaneously their power went out. Then they saw smoke.
Meredith was at the Metchosin fire hall by himself and could also smell smoke. He jumped in an engine, raced to the intersection and doused the grassfire.
“What I noticed was a charred eagle,” Meredith said. “As soon as the cross span hit both power lines, the eagle exploded on impact.”
The grass fire measured 20 by 30 feet. Eagles are commonly seen flying around that intersection.
Birds sparking fires is unusual, Meredith said. Witnesses claimed a bird flew into powerlines and lit a grass fire at Pedder Bay about seven years ago, but the body wasn’t recovered. This is the first proven case he’s seen in Metchosin.
It’s rare for birds to start fires after bursting into flames, but birds with large wingspans occasionally do touch two powerlines and electrocute themselves, said Christina Carrieres, a wildlife rehabilitator at Wild Animal Rescue Centre in Metchosin.
“This happens once in a while, but not often,” Carrieres said. In last known incident several months ago, a bald eagle hit powerlines at the Quadra Street and McKenzie Avenue intersection.
Birds which are known to have electrocuted themselves on powerlines are reported the the Ministry of Environment and that is passed on to BC Hydro. If birds repeatedly hit lines in the same locations, BC Hydro may put up bird deflectors –- which can be coils of wire that increase the apparent diametre of the cable or shiny hanging disks.
Deflectors can save birds and reduce subsequent power outages. A number of the coils were installed on lines at the Saanich-View Royal border in 2007 near Craigflower bridge after two swans electrocuted themselves.
“The deflectors are really helpful,” Carrieres said. “They are shiny and catch the sun so the birds know there is something there.”