Nova Scotia

Lightning sets 15,000-litre propane tank on fire, hits home in Annapolis Valley

A 15,000-litre propane tank at a Walmart store in New Minas, N.S., was set on fire by a lightning strike Wednesday evening. Fire Chief James Redmond said the strike damaged the relief valve at the top of the tank and caused leaking propane to ignite.

No injuries have been reported

This propane tank at the Walmart in New Minas, N.S., was struck by lightning and caught fire on Wednesday. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

A 15,000-litre propane tank at a Walmart store in New Minas, N.S., was set on fire by a lightning strike Wednesday evening.

New Minas Fire Department Chief James Redmond said the strike, which occurred just before 6 p.m. local time, damaged the relief valve at the top of the tank and caused leaking propane to ignite.

He described the ignition of the gas by the lightning as "lucky" because if it had not been set alight, the gas might have drifted and caused an explosion.

"We're going to leave it burning off and we're going to pump out the tank, and when the tank is pumped out, the propane, of course, won't be escaping and won't be burning," he said.

Redmond estimates it took about three hours to drain the tank.

New Minas Fire Department Chief James Redmond said it was lucky the propane caught fire rather than drifting and causing an explosion. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

He said Walmart and two large stores nearby were evacuated. Redmond said there were no injuries.

He said the fire department got a total of four lightning strike calls on Wednesday, including one at a building at Highbury Road.

Pamela Wilson, who lives in an apartment on Aalders Avenue in one of the buildings closest to the propane tank, said she heard a "big crash" and then fire alarms went off for a while before stopping.

Wilson said members of the fire department were walking up and down the street telling people to stay inside to avoid being struck by lightning.

Pamela Wilson lives in an apartment near the burning propane tank and was temporarily evacuated. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

She said when the fire department instructed people in the buildings nearest to the burning tank to evacuate, she was prepared.

"I always have a backpack," she said. "So the only thing I had to put in my bag was my medication and my purse, and I was ready to go."

Wilson said she and a neighbour stayed at the fire hall but some residents opted to stay with friends or relatives nearby.

According to Wilson, after they were given clearance to go home the fire department called to make sure they got there safely. 

"I think that was so nice of them to do that, you know, to look after the elderly," she said.

A lightning strike on Wednesday blew out the window of David Brewster's home in Kentville, N.S. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

David Brewster said he and his wife were at their home in Kentville, the town adjacent New Minas, at around 5:30 p.m. when they heard a loud crash.

Lightning struck their house, blowing out a kitchen window, knocking out power and setting off smoke detectors. Brewster said the lightning entered the electrical system in the house and caused damage to the television.

His wife, he said, was in the kitchen at the time and had a close call.

"I would say that if she had been two feet to the left, she most likely would have suffered some injuries," Brewster said.

He said he considers it unlucky that the lightning struck his home, but very lucky that no one was injured.  

With files from Paul Palmeter

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