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.”
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.
“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
“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.”