Highly explosive gas escapes, resulting in evacuations in Charlottetown

Mitch MacDonald
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A faulty hose was the cause of a major propane leak early Sunday afternoon near a densely populated area of Charlottetown that saw thousands of litres of the highly explosive gas escape, resulting in the evacuation of scores of nearby residents.

City police, firefighters, and public safety officials rushed to the scene to deal with the emergency after an estimated 30,000 litres of the gas leaked into the nearby area, raising the very real fears of a major explosion.

City fire inspector and investigator Winston Bryan said emergency responders were alerted of the propane leak at an Irving propane outlet on Allen Street, just across the street from Van Kampen's Greenhouses, at approximately 12:05 p.m. Sunday.

As a propane cloud hung in the air around the outlet, it didn’t take long for dozens of city police, fire departments, Island EMS and provincial Hazardous Materials (Hazmat) response team to shut the section of Allen Street down to members of the public.

While some individuals tried to get a closer look at the scene, many didn’t realize what they thought was low-lying smoke was actually an explosive gas.

Bryan described the situation as very dangerous.

“That’s why we implemented an evacuation of the area and called in additional resources for the scene,” said Bryan.

Bryan said discovering and fixing the leak was a result of many different emergency departments coming together.

“All agencies (did a fantastic job) in putting their assets together to contain the situation,” he said. “Everyone comes together and everyone has the same thing on their mind, to protect the residents of the city.”

Bryan also added that Edward Anderson, driver of the bull truck that delivered the propane when the hose malfunctioned, was also a major help in averting a crisis.

Anderson is also the volunteer fire chief in Morell.

“Ed was a big asset in our getting the situation under control. Co-operating  with us, the Charlottetown Fire Department, and actually getting in and getting the propane valve shut off and bringing it down to a safe area again.”

“Everyone comes together and everyone has the same thing on their mind, to protect the residents of the city,” City fire inspector and investigator Winston Bryan

Soon after the leak was discovered, police began warning nearby residents to evacuate the area.

One Upper Prince Street resident, who spoke to The Guardian on condition of anonymity, said she had been taking out her garbage when she noticed  all the firefighters and police.

On her way to go find out what was happening, she said she met a police officer walking door-to-door on Upper Prince Street alerting residents to evacuate.

“For precautionary measures,” said the woman, who then went to notify others in her apartment building.

The woman added that her own building, on the corner of Eden and Upper Prince, was the last to be evacuated.

“I thought, ‘we’re close,’ but there’s other persons just as close,” she said, pointing to the numerous individuals trying to catch a glimpse of the scene at the park off Walthen Drive and numerous individuals in the Tim Hortons parking lot near the Allen Street roundabout.

The resident pointed out the area had been previously evacuated when Roger Charles Bell, who referred to himself as “Loki 7,” planted a pipe bomb on one of the propane storage tanks in 1997. A bomb squad was able to remove the explosive and detonate without any injuries.

The bomb threat aside, Sunday wasn’t the first time there has been a propane leak at the site.

City Coun. Mitch Tweel has been a longtime advocate for moving the propane tanks away from the heavily-populated area.

Tweel said there is anxiety among area residents over episodes such as the one that occurred Sunday.

“It’s a tremendous burden on the people that live in the area,” said Tweel during an interview with The Guardian. “There’s a lot of anxiety, and justifiably so.”





Geographic location: Charlottetown, Allen Street

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Recent comments

  • Joanne MacRae
    December 26, 2013 - 20:00

    We smell propane tonight, Dec. 26, 2013. Is there another propane leak on Allen Street? How would you know and who do you call to have it checked out?

  • B
    September 24, 2012 - 17:40

    The person running was the driver, like any one of us would have done at that moment, I agree he is a hero cause he did put firefighting gear on and went in with a hazmat team member and two hose teams to shut the valves off and I have my facts straight cause I was there as an emergency responder!!!!!!!

    September 24, 2012 - 11:15

    By the time this story reached me at work early Sunday afternoon the report was... a fire had erupted on Allen Street, shooting flames 30 feet into the air & all of downtown Charlottetown was in the midst of being evacuated & we were on the brink of the Halifax explosion 2012. How does a propane leak go from a propane leak to almost complete annihilation...I'll tell you how ,because of nosey,bored typical Islanders with to much time on their hands.Just read some of these comments...get a life people !

  • Janice
    September 24, 2012 - 10:34

    Excuse me "INTOBED" YOU are wrong and YOU may want to get YOUR fact straight... it WAS NOT Superior Propane that had the leak it was .... IRVING...

    • intobed
      September 24, 2012 - 13:56

      Absolutely right Janice. My bad. It was an Irving propane facility. Sorry everyone!

  • Marie
    September 24, 2012 - 09:03

    To Mr. Edward Anderson...you wear many hats sir, but you put your life in an extemely dangerous position...Many will not recognize your courage, for staying with your truck and hose...KUDOS. Good work to all the emergency workers...this sure could have been bad for Charlottetown Anybody remember Toronto's big blast a few years ago? Soooo dangerous and deadly and some of those poor people are still not back into their homes....

  • SG
    September 24, 2012 - 08:13

    Does any body know what caused the Explosion on a Bus last night about 11 pm? We could see Flames and Thick Black Smoke coming from the Highway and a Bus was parked on the side of the road across from the West Royalty Centre. Maypoint Plaza parking lot was filled with cars and On-Lookers. The bus was charred on the back end of the drivers' side. Thick smoke could be seen from miles away.

  • tim tonkin
    September 24, 2012 - 05:48

    Take it easy folks . It was propane .Everyone has it in their back yard.

    • Piet Hein
      September 24, 2012 - 08:43

      Tim, how many people have 30,000 litres of propane leaking in their backyard?

  • Get your facts Straight B
    September 24, 2012 - 04:26

    The person running from the yard was NOT the driver.... the driver saved the day by going in at his own personal risk and turning off the valves to shut off the propane... he avoided what could have been a horrible disaster for the city of Charlottetown.. he is a hero!.

  • don
    September 23, 2012 - 23:51

    i think the tanks hould be moved to dizzy's area. and whgat about the irving oil tanks next to the WATER how often are they checked for leaks? and if they blow up how many lives be lost ? but as one reader wrote ch'town wants everything in the city. so if you lose a few lives so what you get more land to build more condos and give away more money.

  • Liz Murnaghan
    September 23, 2012 - 22:34

    I would like to know the radius for any evacuation, and how it's determined for something this potentially dangerous. I live Very near this site, and had no idea why my power was out. No sign of police telling us to clear the area. Thanks for thinking about the cars though!

    • dirtysailor
      September 24, 2012 - 02:18

      A 1 cubic meter tank would have a blast radius very close to 100 meters...so 30 cubic meters should have been a radius of 3000 meters

  • huh
    September 23, 2012 - 21:42

    So the radius around this propane facility should remain undeveloped for all eternity, or until the facility decides on its own to move? Probably not. If something had to go, it would have to be the propane facility.

  • Ken
    September 23, 2012 - 19:33

    This is no place for a propane depot. Time that a petition got under way to have this moved to a safer industrial area away from so many residences. This is a catastrophe waiting to happen.

  • Upwester
    September 23, 2012 - 18:55

    Luckily no one was injured but Mario Charlottetown wants everything in Charlottetown, so you are stuck with it!

    • ?
      September 23, 2012 - 21:46

      so there's no propane storage depots up west?

    • another upwester
      September 25, 2012 - 11:02

      No. There are 3 propane storage depots in PEI. 2 in Charlottetown. 1 in Cornwall. And there are pre-existing houses and other buildings located well within the blast zone of these depots.

    September 23, 2012 - 18:00

    Even though police were telling people to stay away you couldn' t resist the urge to stick your nose in,the great Island past time ...do you know how frustrated & p. o.'ed fire & police get at people like you who totally disregard the instruction to STAY AWAY !

  • amazed
    September 23, 2012 - 17:03

    So, If the tanks exploded the onley areas in danger were the car dealers, kent and adjoining business Hard to believe!!

    • don't de Amazed
      September 23, 2012 - 22:58

      And immediately before that it says they evacuated people in the NEIGHBORHOOD. Then the proceeded on to KEEP PEOPLE CLEAR of that area. Not that hard to believe when you understand what it is saying.

  • David
    September 23, 2012 - 16:54

    People are idiots I saw a dozen cars on University Avenue turn left onto Allen St. and all drove around the barriers towards the propane storage area! Joggers for that Scotia Bank run and bicyclists all going towards a major propane leak with a dozen firetrucks and police cars, do people not have any brains anymore? The police and fire department have enough to do without trying to herd dozens of nitwits lacking self-preservation or any common sense.

  • B
    September 23, 2012 - 16:44

    The person seen running from the area of the storage yard was the driver of the truck that was unloading at the facility, just to put your speculation to rest!!!!!!

    • intobed
      September 23, 2012 - 21:56

      And I can just bet he was a bootin' 'er too.

  • Den
    September 23, 2012 - 16:22

    Now Mario, we can't have the Irvings put a dent in their $8 billion plus fortune for a few measly lives to move a propane depot.

  • A
    September 23, 2012 - 13:39

    I was at work just up Allen St before University and saw all of this, apparently someone said (speculation and not confirmed) that they saw someone run away from the plant as quick as possible and then propane spraying everywhere. After a few minutes of sirens we walked up the street to see police and firefighters yelling to get people out of houses and up Allen St past Sobeys, they evacuated even Young St up Upper Prince as well, but did not evacuate Sobeys. Quite the event, and I have to say I was impressed with how quickly they had the whole streets blocked off and firetrucks up the whole street. Luckily there were no explosions! Still interesting to see what the official report is on how all of this happened.

  • Mario
    September 23, 2012 - 13:18

    You wonder why we don't want a propane storage facility downtown. Move this thing before the headline reads "Hundreds killed in propane blast:"

    • Johno
      September 23, 2012 - 19:41

      Yo, Mario. The propane storage facility has been here long before houses were. Why should the propane storage facility move? This is a great example of why the apartments should NOT be built by the chemical plant. Shame our council doesn't know better.

    • intobed
      September 23, 2012 - 21:54

      Sorry Johno, but you are wrong. The houses were there before the propane storage facility. The current Kent building wasn't though, and now that Kent is moving, who would want to rent a building directly across from Superior Propane? It is time this place moved to an isolated industrial area.

    • incorrect johno
      September 25, 2012 - 09:13

      @ Johno.... That propane plant opened in the 1970s. The houses, Vankampens Greenhouses, etc. were all there long before. This was a poor planning decision made 40 years ago which numerous city councils have sat on their collective butts since then. It nearly turned tragic on Sunday and those politicians would have had blood on their hands then. Please move this thing out to the country with no building anywhere within 2 miles of it.