British Columbia

Punctured propane tank blamed in Vancouver fire

A punctured propane tank is being blamed for an explosion and fire that ripped through a Christmas market in downtown Vancouver on Wednesday morning.

A punctured propane tank is being blamed for an explosion and fire that ripped through a Christmas market in downtown Vancouver on Wednesday morning.

The fire appears to have started after a worker drilling a screw into a wall accidentally penetrated a propane tank and an adjacent heater sparked an explosion at around 10:45 a.m. PT, just minutes before the Vancouver Christmas Market was scheduled to open.

The plaza of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, near West Georgia and Hamilton streets, was filled with construction workers setting up the market, but an alert security guard noticed the leaking gas and managed to evacuate the area.

The market, which includes dozens of temporary booths selling crafts and food, was scheduled to open 15 minutes after the explosion took place. After the fire broke out, many vendors were concerned about the dozens of other propane tanks on the site.

Saw propane leaking

Officials have not yet confirmed the cause of the fire, but vendor Andrew Graham said he saw the tank leaking as he stepped out of his booth.

"I smelled it," Graham said. "It was a bad smell … I thought it was maybe one of the outhouses or something like that.

An exploding propane tank is being blamed for a fire that broke out on the plaza of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in downtown Vancouver on Wednesday morning. ((CBC))

"Then, as I stepped out the booth, I saw the guy yelling, 'There is a propane leak. Get out of here.'

"I looked over at it. I saw the propane, and it was running across the ground, some kind of white fumes and then boom."

The explosion rocked the area and sent flames shooting five to 10 metres up into the air. Firefighters were on the scene within minutes and had the situation under control quickly.

There were no reports of any injuries from the flames, but one woman reportedly fell and hurt her arm while fleeing the site. Four temporary wood structures erected for the craft fair were also damaged by the blaze.

A spokesperson for the craft fair said organizers hope to have the damaged cleaned up and to open the fair within the coming few days. 

This is the first year the Christmas market is being held in B.C. It is based on similar markets that are popular in Germany.

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