British Columbia

Vacant house destroyed, several people injured by large explosion in Nanaimo

A vacant home was destroyed and several people injured by an explosion that was felt across Nanaimo, B.C., on Sunday night. 

6 people injured, noise heard and felt across the city, emergency responders say

There was very little left standing of the vacant home after the explosion on Sunday night. The cause of the explosion is under investigation. (Luke Antrim)

A vacant home was destroyed and several people injured by an explosion that was felt across Nanaimo, B.C., on Sunday night. 

RCMP said the area of Pine Street at Fitzwilliam Street was closed to the public following the explosion, which occurred around 8:20 p.m. PT. 

According to the RCMP, the house, which had been used as a rental, was vacant at the time.

Geoff Whiting, deputy chief with Nanaimo Fire Rescue, said the explosion was heard and felt across the city. 

"People were asking if it was a meteorite that struck," he said. "It was really quite an explosion — a lot of force behind it."


B.C. Emergency Health Services, which oversees the B.C. Ambulance Service, told CBC News on Monday morning that two patients were taken to hospital with minor injuries and four patients were treated by paramedics at the scene for minor injuries.

Four paramedic units, a paramedic supervisor and the district manager for the area attended the scene.

Reserve Const. Gary O'Brien, spokesperson with Nanaimo RCMP, said many of the injuries were due to flying shards of glass.

The cause of the blast is currently under investigation by police and fire personnel, as well as FortisBC.

The gas company said crews arrived on scene and found gas was "blowing out" of a damaged meter. They isolated the meter and stopped the leak. 

Crews said they would cut off the gas line and cap it off before they left the scene.

 

According to O'Brien, B.C. Hydro crews were also called to the scene because of a downed power line in a church parking lot adjacent to the house.

O'Brien said the explosion was strong enough to knock out power at the local police detachment about half a kilometre away, interrupting phone service at the station for approximately 20 minutes.

'It was a massive explosion that was heard throughout Nanaimo," he said Monday, speaking on CBC's On The Island.

He said police have contacted the home's owner, who said the home's last tenants were evicted at the end of January and only his adult son had been periodically visiting the property since then.

Nothing remains of the home with the exception of a basement, which investigators will be exploring Monday, O'Brien said.

'Obliterated'

Luke Antrim said he was watching television after putting his kids to bed when he heard and felt the explosion. 

"It rumbled our whole house," he said.

He then went out to find the site of the explosion, which he says was about 450 metres from his home. 


"The house was literally obliterated — the house shingles hanging in the trees, downed spouts, gutters. Just something I've never seen before," Antrim said. 

He said he later talked to some friends who felt the blast around 10 kilometres away.

Shocked on shift

Andrew Wilson says he was parked nearby waiting for an order while working for a food delivery service.

"All of a sudden there is this white flash of light like a flash bang with an explosion that had a shock wave that shook my car, shook me," Wilson recalled. 

"I didn't know what's going on and I looked out my driver's side window to see blue lightning and orange ember-type sparks flying through the sky."


His first thought was a motorist had hit a telephone pole and he drove toward the sound to see if he could find out more. He found the road strewn with debris.

"You could tell the landscape had changed the place where a house used to be. There was no house, but there was just remains of the house," said Wilson.

FortisBC says it only disconnects gas service from a home when asked, or when there has been no gas consumption for a certain period of time, usually longer than a year. 

If customers are planning to leave a home vacant for a period of time with no gas consumption, the company says they should turn off all gas equipment if possible.

Anyone with information about the explosion is asked to call the Nanaimo RCMP non-emergency line at 250-754-2345 and quote file number 2022-6847.

With files from Jessica Cheung and Bridgette Watson

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