Friday, March 6, 2015

Port Metro Vancouver Experiences Chemical Fire

By Mark Edward Nero

A shipping container caught fire at Canadas largest port on the afternoon of March 4, resulting in an evacuation of the area due to dangerous, potentially toxic fumes. More than a dozen people were hospitalized due to smoke inhalation.

Port Metro Vancouver says it received reports of the container fire about 1:40 pm Wednesday at the Centerm Container Terminal, located on the south shore of Burrard Inlet. Vancouver Coastal Health later confirmed the material inside was a hazardous organic compound - trichloroisocyanuric acid - a possible eye and skin irritant that is commonly used to chlorinate pools.

The chemical, according to Vancouver fire Chief Dan Wood, is an oxidizer, meaning it produces oxygen that adds to a fire. Although the four-alarm blaze was confined to a single shipping container, it forced the shutdown of much of the port as well an advisory for those living east of the area to stay indoors with their windows closed due to the smoke and potential for release of toxic substances into the air.

At least 10 fire trucks and more than two dozen firefighters responded to the blaze and a pair of fire boats were also battled the blaze from the north end of a pier.

The Centerm terminal and nearby port properties were evacuated for about four hours during the incident, and all port operations along the south shore of Burrard Inlet shut down, including rail and truck access.

Thirteen people were hospitalized at two local hospitals for smoke inhalation, according to the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, but were released within hours.