Gas explosion forces evacuation of Richmond apartment building
Published Wednesday, July 10, 2019 4:25PM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, July 10, 2019 8:13PM PDT
Emergency crews say it's fortunate no one was hurt after a gas-related explosion at a Richmond apartment building Wednesday afternoon.
Firefighters told CTV News four units were damaged in the blast, which blew out a number of windows and soffit vents at the property, which is located on No. 2 Road on the outskirts of Steveston Village.
Deputy Chief Jim Wishlove said the initial call came in as a gas explosion, and the department later confirmed that was the cause of the blast.
"There was some service work being done in some fireplaces … so that is the cause of the incident," said Deputy Chief Kevin Gray. "There's some gas in the flues and, as a result, there was an explosion."
Everyone in the building was safely evacuated and cared for by emergency services while authorities work to figure out when and if people can return home.
"We've called for a structural engineer to take a look and determine the extent of the issue," Wishlove said. "If the building is occupiable we'll help sort that out."
Firefighters estimated there are at least 100 units in the building. They said the people living in the four that were damaged likely won't be returning home Wednesday.
Mike Capiello lives in one of the four damaged units. He told CTV News he was having a fireplace installed in his unit at the time of the blast.
"I didn't smell any gas in my unit, then boom," Capiello said. "I could have been killed."
He said he ran to the roof to check on the workers who were up there before getting out of the building. Once he was out and had time to reflect on what had happened and call his work, he said he was relieved that no one was injured.
"Natural gas explosions, wow they're a big deal," Capiello said. "It could have been a lot worse."
By the time firefighters reached the scene at around 2 p.m. there was only a "bit of smoke" coming out of the building, Wishlove said. The explosion caused a minor fire, but it appears the flames didn't survive long.
"It would have extinguished itself right away, possibly because of the sprinkler system," Wishlove said.
Firefighters applauded all the residents for getting outside quickly, and said the incident should serve as a reminder to people across the city to make sure their own smoke detectors are in working condition.
"Once the alarms sounded all the residents did evacuate the building and I can't advise enough that that is the best response," Wishlove said.
Capiello said he's not upset about the damage to his suite.
"I really don't care how my unit is right now," he said. "I get to see my daughter tonight and my family."
A spokesperson for FortisBC told CTV News a crew inspected the scene and determined the damage did not extend to its infrastructure outside the building.
"All we know is that the damage was to the gas line inside the building," Jas Baweja said. "We currently have an operation manager on scene to provide assistance as needed."
With files from CTV Vancouver's Allison Hurst