The forest fires that brought smog to southern Quebec are now creating another problem: widespread power failures.

Electricity in Montreal, Laval, and several other areas was abruptly cut off Wednesday afternoon because transmission lines running from Central Quebec shut down, and Hydro Quebec warns it could happen again.

Several forest fires raging near Eastmain, on the east coast of Hudson's Bay, are very close to transmission lines that come from the massive electrical power generation dams.

Hydro Quebec says the intense heat and smog from the fires affected the wires.

"When they crossed the transmission line, Hydro Quebec transmission lines, they tripped off some protective safety," said Marie-Elaine Devault.

The safety mechanism that protects the lines in the James Bay area shut the power down Wednesday as a precaution, causing immediate repercussions throughout the Montreal area.

The public utility warned it could happen again if heavy smoke from the forest fires once again envelops the transmission lines.


The power failure brought the metro system to a complete halt at 4:39 p.m. Wednesday with trains abruptly stopped in mid-tunnel and stopped rides in mid-stream at La Ronde.

When it became apparent that the power failure was out of their hands STM officials told passengers waiting on platforms to go back to street level ordered an evacuation of all metro trains.

Passengers had to walk through the darkened tunnels to platforms, which many said was scary but -- in the end -- safe.

Metro service was eventually restored on all four lines after 6 p.m.


At La Ronde passengers were trapped, in many cases hanging from rides far above the ground.

"We were at the top of the Ferris Wheel," said one young woman. Her friend panicked.

But the girls say it didn't take long before the emergency procedure kicked in and people were rescued.

"They took us out on a ladder after 30 minutes," said one rider.

With no signs that power was going to be restored the park closed early for the day -- creating major jams as people tried to find any way possible to leave.

With the metro system not working many just had to sit and wait, although those in cars or buses were not much faster.

Several drivers said it took more than an hour just to leave the parking lots on Ile Ste. Helene and get onto a bridge.