VANCOUVER—A chemical fire at a Vancouver container terminal led to a partial evacuation of Canada’s largest port for several hours February 4, prompting health warnings and road closures.
About 65 firefighters, including crews from two fire boats and hazardous materials teams surrounded the flames—even from above with three pieces of aerial equipment that were 33-metres tall, said Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services spokesman Ron Coulson.
A large cloud of white smoke could be seen lifting off a collection of multicoloured shipping containers. Streams of water blasted from fire hoses into the smoke, which obscured any sign of the fire itself.
The city’s health authority confirmed the fire involved a substance called trichloroisocyanuric acid, which can be harmful if inhaled in large quantities and can cause eye irritation.
Trichloroisocyanuric acid is used in dry household bleaches, dishwashing compounds, swimming pool disinfectant and other cleaning agents.
“There are no injuries at this time,” said Coulson. “As this is a defensive fire, our firefighters are taking all precautions to stay out of the smoke plume and wear all the respiratory equipment that we have at our disposal.”
Coulson said firefighters set up an evacuation perimeter of about 800 metres and asked people in the area to stay back.
By early evening, the city issued a bulletin lifting an earlier order from the fire chief for residents in one neighbourhood to seek shelter.
The city also asked people to stay away from the area where the fire broke out, and if they were experiencing breathing problems to get upwind.
“Anyone experiencing shortness of breath or difficulty breathing should see a physician right away,” stated the bulletin.
Port Metro Vancouver spokesman John Parker-Jervis said in a statement that the organization confirmed at 1:40 p.m. that a container was on fire at the Centerm terminal on the south shore of Burrard Inlet.
He said the terminal was shut down and evacuated.