Lake Shore, Gardiner closures: What took so long?

Commuters heading into Toronto from the west end faced a traffic nightmare this morning as a vehicle fire just after 7 a.m. forced the closure of both the Gardiner Expressway and Lake Shore Boulevard in both directions at Jameson Avenue.

Truck fire caused major headaches for commuters Monday morning

Fire ties up Toronto traffic

10 years ago
Duration 2:51
A fire forced the closure of both the Gardiner and Lake Shore Boulevard.

What a major mess it was.

A morning vehicle fire in Toronto forced the closure of both Lake Shore Boulevard and the Gardiner Expressway, in both directions at Jameson Avenue.

A truck fire forced the closure of both the Gardiner Expressway and Lakeshore Boulevard near Jameson Avenue on Monday morning. (Jesse Wente via Twitter)

The backup was caused when a cube van carrying two liquid propane tanks caught fire on the Gardiner near the Jameson exit.

Toronto police Const. Clint Stibbe said that the fear of an explosion was partly to blame for the shutdown.

Then, to get water to the site, fire crews had to access a hydrant on Lake Shore Boulevard. That left the two major arteries into the city from the west end closed during the height of the morning commute, causing major traffic backups

Fire crews also had to cut holes in the side of the truck to reach the tanks and cool them off.

At the bottom of this story, you can see a YouTube video a westbound driver shot while driving past the burning truck.

By 10:15 a.m. all lanes had reopened, but eastbound traffic remained backed up all the way to Highway 427. Alternate routes into town from the west end were also busy.

Why such a long delay for a truck fire?

Some drivers contacted CBC News questioning why a truck fire took so long to clear.

Toronto Fire Services district chief Stephan Powell said the liquid propane tanks inside the truck were equipped with special values that vent off the gas when the tanks become too hot. This helps prevent an explosion, but it also helped fuel this morning's fire, which meant it took longer to extinguish.

Many asked why a water hose had to be run across Lake Shore Boulevard to access a hydrant near the Boulevard Club, tying up traffic on the Lake Shore, the Gardiner's main alternate route.

Powell said a pumper truck would run out of water in only a few minutes.

"Keep in mind that a pumper truck only has a certain amount of water on it, between 1,000 and 1,500 litres," Powell told CBC News. "Once that's gone, it needs to hook up to a hydrant. It's anywhere from two to four minutes worth of water. If you have a large fire, you need more water than what a truck on its own can supply."

Even with the hydrant supply it took about 40 minutes for crews to extinguish the burning truck.

Today's freezing temperatures were also a factor in the delay.

When it came time to cleanup the roadway, emergency crews had to wait for a city salt truck to spread over the water on the roadway to prevent it from freezing.

With a report from the CBC's Steven D'Souza