October 2, 2012
Fireball, explosion at Winnipeg fuel company forces evacuation
By Tamara King, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG — A massive blaze at a fuel company in this city sent a searing hot, ground-shaking fireball high into the sky and forced the evacuation of nearby homes and businesses.
Firefighters were called around 5:30 p.m. Monday to Speedway International Ltd., in the city's St. Boniface neighbourhood. Speedway distributes racing methanol, a flammable liquid, according to the company's website.
"I thought we were going to blow up," said Kayla Lauzon, a St. Boniface resident near the scene who said she was worried about going to sleep in case there were more explosions.
A few smaller blasts followed the fireball.
Nearby businesses and an estimated 100 homes were evacuated.
Many of the affected residences were concentrated in a 1-kilometre swath west of the fire. The city supplied buses for evacuees, but many residents opted to make their own plans, said emergency co-ordinator Randy Hull.
"When we knock on the door, we give them a couple of options, and usually they exercise the option of going to friends or family," said Hull.
The city tried to discourage curious onlookers showing up in the area, asking everyone to leave for safety reasons.
"(Firefighters) are worried there's going to be more explosions," said city spokeswoman Michelle Bailey late Monday evening.
One Winnipeg news reporter said on Twitter firefighters told media to take cover behind something solid as rail cars threatened to explode. Speedway also distributes its product using the railway, the company's website said.
Firefighters appeared to attack the flames by spraying water from hundreds of metres away.
All major routes were also shut down to traffic.
The massive plume of smoke was visible from outside the city.
There was no word on the cause of the fire.