Canmore house explosion likely caused by gas leak

A gas leak is likely responsible for an explosion that shook the Alberta mountain town of Canmore, blowing up an unoccupied home, scattering debris on the streets and leaving as many as 40 people with minor injuries.

Many in neighbourhood unable to return home after explosion scattered debris, injured dozens

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      A gas leak is likely responsible for an explosion that shook the Alberta mountain town of Canmore, blowing up an unoccupied home, scattering debris on the streets and leaving as many as 40 people with minor injuries.

      A man running an excavator at a construction site on 13th Street hit a gas line on Friday afternoon. After receiving an emergency call, the gas company sent crews to evacuate homes and turn off the gas.

      "During that time we feel enough gas had migrated into the home to cause an explosion," said Brian Cox, a director with ATCO Gas.

      "Part of the investigation by the fire marshal, the fire department and ATCO Gas is to try to determine what ignited the gas when it went into the home, what route it followed to get into the home."

      A large boom and a plume of smoke startled residents throughout the town at about 5 p.m.

      'Crazy what happened,' says mayor

      "It's a miracle that no one died," said Canmore Mayor John Borrowman after walking down the street, which is closed to the public.

      "It was shrapnel spread all around the neighbourhood and vehicles parked in front of the house are destroyed. I mean destroyed. Anybody that had been caught in the full force of that impact — I don't think anybody could have survived."

      About 430 homes and businesses in Canmore are without gas and people living in 18 homes near the blast site remain evacuated from their homes, some of which are badly damaged.

      "It's crazy what happened inside of some of the homes," the mayor said.

      Cleanup has begun on the street and an engineering firm is checking nearby homes to make sure they are safe.

      'Do you smell gas?'

      One woman who was picking up her grandchildren on the street said she smelled gas about a half an hour before she heard the thunderous explosion.

      "We went to all get in the vehicle and you could smell gas. And we said to the neighbour lady who was doing her lawn, do you smell gas?" said Theresa Biggy. 

      The explosion reduced one home to a pile of rubble and badly damaged others. Now Biggy's family can't return to their house on 13th Street.

      "We can only see pictures, we can't get to it, but the windows and the doors are out," said Biggy.

      The explosion shook up residents of the Bow River Seniors' Lodge at Fairholme Drive and 13th Street. The seniors were in the dining hall when the blast happened, which was fortunate because windows were shattered in some of the rooms, said spokesman Ian Wilson.

      Three people went to hospital with minor injuries, including a senior from the home. ​RCMP estimate about 40 people had minor scrapes and cuts from flying glass and debris.

      Fire officials, RCMP and Alberta's Occupational Health and Safety department are investigating.


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