Probe of Superior Propane fire expected to take days

How propane tanks caught fire and exploded at a south-end Barrie propane facility Friday afternoon has yet to be determined.

But several regulatory agencies, along with Superior Propane officials, are at the south-end facility at Bayview Drive and Lockhart Road today ensuring that it is now safe and figuring out just what went wrong yesterday.

Officials say the two employees working on site shortly after lunch time Friday properly followed their response plan and got out of the potentially dangerous situation quickly and called 911, ensuring there were no injuries.

As a precaution, emergency personnel also evacuated about a one-kilometre radius to create a safety zone as they quickly contained the spectacular blaze.

Firefighters said earlier the main concern at the time was the report of two large 30,000-gallon propane tanks.

While the fire was visible from a distance and was accompanied by several explosions, deputy fire chief Carrie Clark said it’s difficult to assess its size.

Firefighters had managed to quickly control the blaze and spot fires early on, working on cooling the tanks, and left the scene at 9 p.m., Friday, while police remained to keep the site secure.

“There’s a lot of regulatory agencies involved” because of the propane, Clark said Saturday. “Meanwhile, the Ministry of Labour also wants to make sure everyone is working safely.

“It’s truly a scientific, methodical process and it’s slow and steady wins the race," Clark added.

Debris of some of the propane tanks that did explode and landed around the area needs to be located, documented and cleaned up.

The Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) -- the regulatory body for fuels and pressure vessels -- is on site with an investigation and safety team.

The Office of Fire Marshal (OFM) will also investigate the origin and cause, but Clark expects that could take four days or longer.

Meanwhile, a crew from Superior Propane, which owns the facility and is required to remediate the area to make it safe, is working with officials in the investigations.

“We’re working to secure the site and complete the investigation with the authorities,” said Teresa Crosato, the company’s marketing and communications manager. “We’re in the early stages and focused on that work right now.”

Clark said there were dozens if not hundreds of cylinders, ranging in size from 20 pounds to 100 pounds, that were impacted by direct heat and flames that still need to be evaluated.

“Each one of those tanks could be at different levels of volume,” she said.

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