British Columbia

Burnaby Mountain fire lights concerns around former Kinder Morgan tank farm

A Burnaby fire chief said flames came within 230 metres of the nearest tank, while opponents of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project worry that a more severe fire in dryer conditions could more easily spread.

Burnaby fire chief said flames came within 250 metres of nearest tank

One of the petroleum tanks in Burnaby which is part of the Trans Mountain pipeline. Opponents to expanding the pipeline say a recent fire on Burnaby Mountain shows the site could be at further risk from fire. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Opponents of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project said they are worried about fire risk at the former Kinder Morgan tank farm on Burnaby Mountain, after flames from a dramatic fire on Saturday came within hundreds of metres of tanks storing petroleum products.

"I'm glad there were no explosions because that tank farm that is just 250 metres from there is like a bomb waiting to go off in our community," said Elan Gibson with Burnaby Residents Opposed to Kinder Morgan.

On Saturday, a fire broke out in a storage facility at a property owned by a demolition company on Aubrey Street near Pinehurst Drive.

The facility is surrounded by forest, with a residential neighbourhood on one side and the tank farm on the other.

It took 34 firefighters to keep the flames from spreading, while the structure was destroyed.

A structure engulfed in flames at Aubrey Street and Pinehurst Drive in Burnaby B.C. on Jan. 19, 2019. (Shane MacKichan)

"We did have a bit of concern," said Barry Mawhinney, an assistant fire chief with the Burnaby Fire Department, about the proximity to the tanks, which store a variety of petroleum products.

"If it was in the summer and the green space was a bit drier, we would have had a bigger concern," he added.

Gibson and the Burnaby Residents Opposed to Kinder Morgan are also worried a fire in the forest during dry summer conditions could end up spreading to the tanker farm and result in large fire involving hazardous materials.

Elan Gibson with Burnaby Residents Opposed to Kinder Morgan says increased tanks at the Burnaby Mountain site pose a risk to the community. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

The Trans Mountain Expansion Project would increase the amount of tanks at the site by 14 and the proximity to one another.

In 2016, SFU released a report which said the expansion—especially the increase in tanks—poses "significant health and safety risks" to the school and its community.

The report, prepared by PGL Environmental Consultants, said that the extra tanks and the greater volume of refined bitumen will increase the risk of accidents, fires and exposure to toxic chemicals.

It also said the greater number of tanks and their location near the intersection of Burnaby Mountain Parkway and Gaglardi Way could cut off access to and from SFU if there was a fire at the site.

Barry Mawhinney, assistant fire chief with the Burnaby Fire Department says drier conditions could have more easily spread a fire on Burnaby Mountain on Jan. 19, 2019. (Cory Correia/CBC News)

The Burnaby Fire Department said that a fire at the tank farm would be both difficult and dangerous to control.

"I'm just horrified, and I'm so glad that if this had to happen, it happened now," said Gibson about Saturday's fire.

What remains of a storage facility on Aubrey Street on Burnaby Mountain after a fire on Jan. 19, 2019. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

On Aug. 31, 2018, Kinder Morgan closed the sale of the Trans Mountain Pipeline to the Government of Canada for $4.5 billion, which included the Burnaby terminals.

The project was granted federal approval on Nov. 16, 2016 after the National Energy Board approved the expansion with 157 conditions, which included 49 environmental requirements.

Construction is currently halted after a decision in Aug. 2018 from the Federal Court of Appeal that said Ottawa's consultation efforts with Indigenous commuities were inadequate.

Retired Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci is leading the new consultation process with Indigenous people on the project.

Meanwhile, the federal government also directed the NEB to review the project and consider its impact on the marine environment. It has until Feb. 22 to submit its report.

With files from Jon Hernandez