The fuel delivery truck involved in a spectacular fire near Millbrook on Wednesday night had emerged from the repair shop just hours before becoming engulfed in flames, CBC News has learned.
"The driver had just picked up the first delivery," said Dave Armstrong, the co-founder of Burlington-based Global Fuels Inc., owner of the truck.
"What caused it, we're trying to trace that back."
No one — including the driver — was injured when the vehicle carrying diesel furnace oil caught fire on the northbound lane of Highway 102 near Millbrook. A nearby senior citizens home as well as several residences and businesses were evacuated as a precaution.
Armstrong told CBC News the incident was "very rare."
Global Fuels Inc. operates a fleet of 43 delivery vehicles in Nova Scotia. It's part of the Esso home fuel supply chain in the province. The company said its vehicles have never been involved in a safety incident like this.
Geoff MacLellan, Nova Scotia's Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, offered a preliminary explanation of what caused the fire.
"It was apparently an axle that broke," MacLellan told reporters in Halifax on Thursday.
"We will certainly be finding out the history of that truck to make sure everything was filed to the letter."
One northbound lane on the busy Highway 102 corridor will remain closed indefinitely. Burning diesel fuel scorched through several layers of pavement.
In addition to the evacuation, authorities shut down Highway 102 for several hours. The handling of the incident is being applauded by Mark Phillips of Atlas Compliance. The Halifax company trains businesses that ship dangerous goods.
"Diesel fuel doesn't pose the same risks that gasoline would. Its flash point is much higher and it's not as flammable. That being said, it's flammable liquid and anything could have happened," Phillips told CBC News.
"They erred on the side of caution and did the right thing."
Phillips said the fire was likely an isolated incident that happened to involve a fuel truck. However, he said the federal government needs to hire more inspectors and carry out more inspections of vehicles carrying dangerous goods.