From Osprey News Media

Propane explosion forces evacuation
Residents within 1.5-km radius of County Rd. 2 business return home 12 hours later

Michelle Thompson
Local News - Monday, February 27, 2006 @ 10:00

BRIGHTON Residents within a 1.5-km radius of Gerow’s Propane Ltd. returned to their homes Sunday after being evacuated when the facility exploded into flames.

Brighton OPP declared a state of emergency after a 2,400-litre propane tank exploded inside the building shortly before 9:25 p.m. Saturday.

About 18 fire trucks from Brighton and Quinte West fire department crews were dispatched to help combat the blaze, said Brighton Fire Department Capt. Harry Tackaberry. Between 60 and 70 firefighters were on the scene.

“When our first truck got there, the flames probably went 100 to 150 feet up in the air. We didn’t do any suppression for about three hours.” Small propane canisters continued to explode for 20 minutes after firefighters arrived at the scene.

Firefighters let the fire burn itself out because it wasn’t safe for them to go near it, Tackaberry said. At around 4 a.m. they began hosing it down with water.

Concern over a 60,000 litre tank about 30 metres away from the blast prompted the evacuations almost immediately. Some residents spent the night at the Brighton Fire Hall.

“The response guide tells us when you have a tank involved in a fire, you evacuate for one mile,” Tackaberry said. “The (other) propane tanks could have exploded.”

Joe Currie, who lives next door to Gerow’s Propane on County Road 2, recently suffered a heart attack. May Scriver, 69, has been helping look after him and spent the night at his home Saturday.

They both slept through the commotion.

Currie is deaf. His dog, 14-year-old Sheba, can barely hear. And when the initial explosion sounded as Scriver was sleeping, she thought it was thunder.

It wasn’t until firefighters came banging on the front door, yelling at them to evacuate, that she began to suspect something was amiss.

Scriver looked out the window to find flames shooting into the air.

“I wanted to get out of there,” she said.

The pair found shelter at the Brighton home of Scriver’s son.

Scriver, who has lived in Brighton her entire life, said she has often wondered what would happen if things went wrong at Gerow Propane.

“I’ve always said what are we going to do if that thing blows up?’” she said. “Now we know.”

Const. Pam Higham, a communications officer from Orillia, said firefighters remained on the scene until early Sunday afternoon, when they were certain it wouldn’t spark up again.

“Everybody and their dog checked it,” Higham said. “It’s safe and by safe I mean there will be no new explosions.”

Residents were allowed to return home at around 9:40 a.m. Sunday.

There were no injuries. The Ontario Fire Marshall’s office, the OPP, and firefighters are continuing their investigation.