Nova Scotia

Truck carrying propane tanks catches fire and explodes in Debert

A truck with a flatbed trailer carrying more than a thousand propane tanks caught fire in Debert, N.S., Sunday night, creating a scene of flames and explosions the local fire chief calls the most intense he's ever witnessed.

Fire chief describes propane tanks exploding, huge wall of flames

Propane tanks littered Plains Road in Debert, N.S., in the wake of the fire. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

A truck with a flatbed trailer carrying more than a thousand propane tanks caught fire in Debert, N.S., Sunday night, creating a scene of flames and explosions the local fire chief calls the most intense he's ever witnessed.

The Debert Fire Brigade was called to Plains Road around 10:30 p.m. When they arrived, exploding propane tanks were flying like a "missile" along the road, according to fire Chief Shane Slack.

"The flames were at tree line, just mass flame," he said, describing fiery trails from propane cylinders "going off left and right" and which soon lit nearby woods on fire.

Firefighters kept their distance until the fire cooled and the propane tanks stopped exploding, then moved in to battle the blaze.

The truck was completely destroyed by the fire and subsequent explosions. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

The fire shut down part of Plains Road in the central Nova Scotia community, which is about 20 kilometres northwest of Truro. 

The fire started in the truck's trailer brakes and then spread to the propane tanks, said Slack.

People driving by the scene captured dramatic video.

Slack said the truck was carrying 1,080 propane tanks.

The two men in the truck stopped the vehicle after they smelled smoke, he said, and got out just in time to see the fire eat through the brakes and tires on the trailer.

One man grabbed a fire extinguisher when the first propane tank exploded, Slack said, and then both ran for safety.  

They managed to escape without injury. None of the firefighters that responded to the blaze were harmed.

Slack said once the first propane tank exploded it set off others.

"Because they were massed in so heavy in there with a thousand tanks, that fails another one and it's just a chain reaction down the line, until the mass heat started rupturing tanks. Blowing off safety valves and the fire carried on. The longer it went the worst it got," said Slack.   

The 'fairly spectacular' fire started in the truck's brakes and then spread to the propane tanks loaded on the flatbed trailer, according to Debert Fire Brigade Chief Shane Slack.   2:48

The Debert Fire Brigade managed to put out the fire with help from the Onslow Belmont Fire Brigade.

They sprayed the surrounding woods with water, which combined with the dampness in the air to keep the fire from spreading too far into the forest.

On Monday morning, propane tanks were strewn across the road and trees to the side were burned.

The fire was so massive it damaged the road surface and burned away fibre optic cabling in the area, according to the Onslow Belmont Fire Brigade. 

Slack said he had never before fought a fire so intense.

The fire burned some of the trees on the roadside. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

The Department of Transportation sent out a tweet just after midnight saying that Plains Road would be closed from Belmont Road to Staples Brook Road for several hours. 

The road was still closed as of 8 a.m. Monday. 

The fire burned so hot it liquefied the aluminium trailer hauled by the truck. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

With files from Paul Palmeter

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