While Thompson has seen a number of house fires lately, a March 8 blaze on Trout Avenue was a little different, since several residents say it was cause by an explosion.
One homeowner, who asked to remain anonymous, says that he saw the immediate aftermath of the explosion firsthand while at home with his family.
“We were sitting watching TV and at about 9:30 that night there was a big bang and the house shook,” he said. “And then we looked out and the garage door was blown open and there was fire in the backyard.”
Another resident across the street said he heard a similar “bang” around that same time March 8.
Thompson Fire & Emergency Services (TFES) quickly arrived on the scene and managed to get the fire under control by around 10 p.m.
Representatives from Stittco Energy were also called to investigate the fire and eventually concluded, after the blaze was put out, that there was a gas leak located somewhere on or near the property.
“Because of the situation, what we ended up doing was capping the line off at two different locations and basically bypassed what we think was the suspected area,” said Brian Seppala, vice-president of operations for Superior Propane, which acquired Stittco back in 2017, in a March 29 interview. “We’ve yet to [fully] excavate, so we don’t know the full conclusion at this point.”
This incident impacted 44 residents in the area who are currently getting their heat from either a temporary gas line or a propane tank, Seppala said.
While Stittco and TFES representatives can’t officially say if this fire was caused by an explosion at this point, the resident whose property was damaged said there is no doubt in his mind based on what he saw.
“The one wall [in the garage] was blown apart, so off the foundation, and then there was water damage and smoke damage in the back part of the garage and on the outside some of the siding was burnt and melted and all the windows were broken,” he said.
While most of the damage was limited to his garage and backyard, the resident remains concerned about his family’s safety, since his children were playing near the site of the explosion and gas leak two hours earlier.
“We’re not smokers or anything like that, but if someone went outside to smoke and something happened it could have been really bad,” he said. “That’s what we’re thankful for, that nobody got hurt. But it could have been really bad.”
This resident’s next-door neighbour, who also wishes to remain anonymous, shares these public safety concerns.
Even though he was out of town when the event took place, the neighbour’s garage sustained similar damage and he is wondering why the city or Stittco hasn’t taken steps to let area residents know about what he considers the true cause of the March 8 fire.
“This is important for the public to know,” he said. “This is not something you just fix and forget about it. I’ve been born and raised in this community for 52 years and if the infrastructure is starting to fail then we have to have some system in place to detect it.”
Although the City of Thompson asked residents to avoid the area on their Facebook page March 8, they are waiting for Stittco to complete its investigation before they communicate any more details to the public.