Fire dealt with rapidly, no casualties
By Angela Espinoza, News Editor
A chemical fire occurred in Port Metro Vancouver on the afternoon of March 4, which resulted in exposure warnings throughout the day.
The fire involved containers which held trichloroisocyanuric acid, which Global News revealed is used as a water-treating chemical, “often used in swimming pools or a as a bleaching agent for textiles.” When the acid caught fire, the combination resulted in chlorine gas, which could be seen as large puffs of white smoke rose from the fire.
In an interview with Global, Dave Rogers stated, “[Trichloroisocyanuric acid] is toxic by ingestion, it will kill if you drink it. But all are moderate, which means it’s going to be a low amount of chemical that you’re going to be exposed to.”
While the gas released was not deemed deadly, residents of Vancouver were requested to stay indoors for several hours after the fire took place. Professor and air pollution specialist at UBC Karen Bartlett told Global that chlorine gas is “definitely a respiratory irritant, it’s also an eye irritant.”
The fire was dealt with by hazard response teams, which Vancouver city manager Penny Ballem described in a press conference as, “A silent emergency, [with] no explosion, no shaking of the earth, but a risk to our public.
“I would say it was a good, solid response.”
Metro reported that “up to 30 firefighters” fought to put out the fire and prevent it from spreading to other containers, “and up to 40 fire personnel were on site.”
The chemical fire, although dealt with, also caused CN Rail and various TransLink bus and SkyTrain routes to be halted and re-routed while air was still determined to be unsafe to the public. Crowding was seen at SkyTrain stations such as the Lougheed Town Centre station, as a result of the re-routing.
Vice president of Port Metro Vancouver Peter Xotta told the Metro, “I can assure you that all protocols in place for handling containers with this substance were followed.”
“In a matter of minutes, we knew what we were dealing with”
Xotta also explained that numerous dangerous and potentially deadly chemicals come through the Port Metro Vancouver area every year as they are shipped to and from other countries, but that the proper protocols make emergencies such as chemical fires rare occurrences.
On March 5, CBC reported that at least 13 people were admitted to hospitals showing signs of “irritated respiratory tract symptoms,” but that all had since been helped and released.
The cause of the fire is still unknown.