A fire at the dock at Squamish Terminals at Nexen Beach in Squamish, B.C., was reported to be mostly contained by early Friday morning.

School district officials announced that because of improved air quality, schools would be open this morning, but students will be kept inside for the day as a precaution. 

Residents reported thick smoke, and noxious fumes last night, and into the early morning hours.

"They haven't evacuated us, and it smells horrible!" Cheryl Bester told CBC. "The thick smoke has filled the entire town and north past Brackendale."

The fire started shortly after 6 p.m. PT Thursday, and Squamish residents reported large plumes of smoke in the area. Squamish Terminals is a deep-water facility in Howe Sound that has two berths and three warehouses with about 47,000 square metres of storage. 

Squamish Mayor Patricia Heintzman said residents were still being asked to clear the downtown core and stay indoors.

"There is a significant amount of smoke," said Heintzman. "It's smelly, dark and black."

District of Squamish officials were awaiting confirmation from Vancouver Coastal Health on the toxicity levels of the smoke.

The Ministry of Environment is also investigating to determine possible risk to the public.

Bill Stoner, Squamish deputy fire chief, said the request for people to stay inside is just precautionary. 

"We don't have any evidence of air quality at all right now. We won't know anything until the Ministry of Environment gets here to sample," Stoner said.

"What we have is mostly dock, so what goes into the construction of a wood dock, that's what's burning," added Stoner.

Residents were also asked to shut down their furnaces, air conditioners, exhaust fans and vents, and close their fireplace dampers.

As of midnight PT, the fire was 90 per cent contained, Moore said.

"It's determined to be sourced at the dock, the dock itself," said Kim Stegeman, vice-president of administration at Squamish Terminals.

She said it's not clear how it started.

"It certainly has spread, but at this point we're not certain to the extent of the damage. That'll be part of the investigation."

Stegeman said she doesn't believe any cargo is involved in the fire. The dock is used to load and unload forestry products, and steel and special project cargo.

"There was a vessel tied up at the dock at the time, and it was not on fire and it was safely pulled away from the dock and the crew is safe as well," said Stegeman.

Waiting for low tide

The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre said it moved the large, timber-carrying vessel that was docked at the terminal. 

The fire is confined to the pilings and underside of the dock, but high tide is preventing firefighters from extinguishing it completely, Moore said, adding that efforts to put out the blaze will continue when the tide recedes. 

Two firefighting boats — one from the Vancouver fire department and one from Seaspan, a marine transport industry association — are on the scene.

Auxiliary fire crews from Squamish, West Vancouver and Vancouver were called in to assist with the fire Thursday night.

A Squamish Terminals spokesperson said all 40 to 60 workers left the dock safely. 


Posted by Christina Forsyth on Thursday, 16 April 2015

With files from Rafferty Baker