Toronto

House explosion in Caledon, Ont., leaves man dead, up to 35 neighbours displaced

A 54-year-old man is dead after an early morning house explosion in the town of Caledon, northwest of Toronto, on Sunday, Ontario Provincial Police say.

An estimated 10 to 15 homes have been damaged, gas has been shut off as cause under investigation

One person is dead after a house exploded in Caledon early Sunday. The Ontario Provincial Police released this photo of the scene. (Ontario Provincial Police )

A 54-year-old man is dead after an early morning house explosion in the town of Caledon on Sunday, Ontario Provincial Police say. 

The explosion occurred in a home on Maple Grove Road in the neighbourhood of Caledon Village. Emergency crews received several 911 calls at about 6:20 a.m. Caledon is about 60 kilometres northwest of Toronto. 

When emergency crews arrived on the scene, one person was found without vital signs and pronounced dead by Peel Regional paramedics. He was later identified as Caledon resident Joseph Westcott.

About 30 to 35 people were forced to leave their homes early Sunday because fire crews evacuated the area surrounding the blast. Officials said the residents could be out of their homes for at least a couple of days.

"This was a significant explosion that will have to be thoroughly investigated," Caledon Fire Chief Darryl Bailey told reporters near the scene on Sunday. "It's too early to speculate. We have very little details as to what caused this."

The blast damaged about 10 to 15 nearby homes. The force of the explosion blew off front doors, garage doors and windows, and scattered debris over a large area, including on roofs and in trees. Debris also rained down on vehicles.

Caledon Fire Chief Darryl Bailey said: 'Upon arrival, our crews found a house that was completely on the ground, with damage to several houses in the immediate area.' (Ontario Provincial Police)

Enbridge Gas has shut off gas in the area. Fire crews are still searching the area for any other possible victims, but officials don't believe anyone else was in the house at the time of the blast.

A building inspector, with the help of fire crews, is expected to go door-to-door in the evacuation zone to check the structural integrity of affected homes.

'People are very supportive'

Caledon Mayor Allan Thompson said the community is rallying around residents who have been displaced. He thanked the OPP, Caledon Fire and Peel paramedics for their efforts.

"This is Caledon," he told reporters. "People are very supportive. It sure has brought our community together and we're known for that."

Ontario Provincial Police cruisers are parked near the scene of a house explosion in Caledon. Police have closed roads in the area. (Christopher Langenzarde/CBC )

A drone from Brampton Fire has been used to determine the size of the debris field, he said.

Insp. Ryan Carothers of the OPP's Caledon detachment said police have taped off the evacuation zone.

"We ask that anybody who doesn't need to be in this area stay away from this area. As you can see, it is an active investigation. We're doing everything we can to assist with all the residents that have been displaced," Carothers said.

When fire crews arrived on the scene, they found a house completely destroyed. (CBC)

​House 'completely on the ground'

Early Sunday, the fire chief said several firefighters and trucks were dispatched to the house after callers reported there was a house fire and explosion.

Bailey said it turned out there was no working fire, but gas was "free flowing." Crews were concerned that gas mains in neighbouring houses had been ruptured as well.

"Upon arrival, our crews found a house that was completely on the ground, with damage to several houses in the immediate area," Bailey said.

About two hours later, he said: "We have the gas shut off to the immediate area so the scene is somewhat stabilized for us," he said.

Ontario's Office of the Marshal has been notified and an investigator was expected at the scene later on Sunday.

Angelo Salituro, a neighbourhood resident, said he heard a 'loud bang' and his house shook when the explosion occurred. 'I never experienced anything like this before never. Never. It shook. I had a hard time catching my breath when I was in the house.' (CBC)

Angelo Salituro, a neighbourhood resident, said he heard a "loud bang" and thought it was a transformer exploding. 

"The house shook for seconds," he said. "I never experienced anything like this before never. Never. It shook. I had a hard time catching my breath when I was in the house.

"One big bang for seconds! For seconds, the house shook. Shook. I mean shook."

He headed with his family to the basement, then came up and noticed that other residents were coming out of their homes.

After leaving his house, he heard sirens. The blast blew out windows. He said he thinks his house sustained some structural damage. 

Knox United Church in Caledon has opened its doors to residents forced from their homes. (CBC)

Initially, residents forced to leave their homes took shelter on a heated Brampton Transit bus or went to McDonald's and they have since been transported to Knox United Church to take shelter, the mayor said.

Hotline may be set up for evacuees

​The church and a local restaurant, Mamma's Shack, say they are providing free beverages to residents who were forced to leave their homes.

"We've opened our doors to anyone who needs somewhere warm to be if they have nowhere to go," Michelle Windross, secretary for Knox United Church in Caledon, said on Sunday.

"Just basically, if anybody needs somewhere to go, we're here."

Angela Lott, owner of Mamma's Shack, said she wants evacuees to know they can take shelter in her restaurant, about four kilometres from the explosion site, as long as they need it.

"I'm a member of the community. The community supports my business every day. If I can help in any way I can, I'm here to help them," she said. 

Officials are working to set up a hotline for residents to call if they need assistance.

Charleston Sideroad remains closed from Highway 10 to Kennedy Road as officers investigate.

Firefighters walk near the scene of the explosion on Sunday. (CBC)