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Positive air quality reading following chemical fire at Port Metro Vancouver

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – There is still some smoke drifting up from the site of a large chemical fire at Port Metro Vancouver that forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes and businesses Wednesday afternoon.

There is also a warning form the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority following the blaze.  It says symptoms from exposure to the smoke may take up to 24 hours to appear and that includes things like wheezing and difficulty breathing.  Today, medical health officers say anyone who was exposed to the smoke and has underlying lung issues should seek medical attention immediately.

Vancouver Fire crews have been keeping a close eye on the smoldering shipping container, adding they are going to let it burn down and cool off before they try to open it which could be sometime Friday.

Members have also been taking air sample readings and there haven’t been any problems reported.

“All the readings that we have are well below the safe working limits that would be expected in the workplace — in the neighbourhoods of even half of that for an eight-hour period.  So, we’re just continuing to do some air samplings throughout the waterfront and into the downtown core,” says Deputy Fire Chief Brian Godlonton.

He adds they’ve also been checking the quality of water in the area and there are no environmental concerns.

Smoke from the container fire choked much of East Vancouver and Burnaby yesterday afternoon.  The blaze was fueled by an acid that is commonly used to chlorinate pools.  The fire was a three-alarm call and, at the height of it, up to 60 crew members were attacking it by land and sea.

Police set up a partial evacuation zone and ordered anyone in that area to either stay indoors or to leave the area.

“We’ll be doing a post-incident analysis of exactly what took place, but I think based on the time the alarm came in and the time the first responders were on scene — it was very adequate.  And our partners from Vancouver Police were right behind us in helping us secure the area where it needed to be and move forward from there,” adds Godlonton.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

“Yesterday was an event that the city hasn’t experienced in quite some time and I just want to take this opportunity to say how proud I am of how everybody worked together.  We’ve learned a lot and we’re still going through what we can do better next time, but for the most part I think things went very well,” says Vancouver Fire Chief John McKearney.

As for Port Metro Vancouver, operations have resumed on the South Shore of Burrard Inlet, except at the Centerm container terminal where there that smouldering container has been isolated.