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Squirrel sabotages Montague substation

TURNERS FALLS — Thousands of Western Massachusetts Electric Co. customers found themselves without power Saturday morning, thanks to a single squirrel.

“A squirrel got onto a piece of equipment in the Montague substation” near Cabot Station and caused a short-circuit that tripped a safety shutoff, said WMECO spokeswoman Janine Saunders. “It caused about 5,000 customers to lose power for about an hour and a half.”

“A very small animal wreaked havoc on a very intricate, intelligent system,” said Turners Falls Fire Capt. Todd Brunelle.

The outage extended from Turners Falls to parts of Montague and Greenfield, as well as any other areas served by the Cabot Station hydroelectric generator, said Saunders.

People in the area called the Fire Department after hearing a loud “bang” at about 9:30 a.m., and firefighters rushed to the scene. Brunelle said firefighters arrived to find WMECO already on scene. There was no fire associated with the short-out, he said.

Saunders said there was no significant damage to substation equipment, because the safety shut-off functioned properly. The WMECO crew set to work inspecting the substation, and were able to clear it and restore power by 10:50, she said.

“It was very inconvenient for people, but we were able to restore power relatively quickly,” said Saunders. “It didn’t end so well for the squirrel.”

Brunelle confirmed that the squirrel was dead on arrival.

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