BRITISH COLUMBIA

Car explosion and fire makes Vancouver's West End look like 'war zone'

05/22/2013 11:02 EDT | Updated 07/22/2013 05:12 EDT
VANCOUVER - The scene of an vehicle explosion in downtown Vancouver transformed a landscaped boulevard into a scene from a war zone blast, said Vancouver Fire Capt. Gabe Roder.

Bits and pieces of a car hung on power lines and were sent hundreds of metres, while windows were shattered up to the 12th storey of nearby buildings.

Roder said an acetylene tank, either leaking or left open inside a car, is to blame for the early-morning blast that tore apart a car parked on a street in Vancouver's West End.

"Just the simple action of the owner walking towards his car, basically opening his door with his electronic key ... a small spark occurred and that was enough to ignite that gas," said Roder.

"The owner is extremely, extremely fortunate not to have suffered any injuries."

Two other people who happened to be driving by in a vehicle at the same time weren't as fortunate. Roder said both those people were sent to hospital with some injuries, mostly related to flying glass.

The owner has been interviewed by Vancouver police and there's no belief that the explosion is a crime scene, Roder said.

Roder said the owner of the vehicle was a plumber and the acetylene tank was used for his work.

Fire crews were able to quickly put out the blaze caused by the explosion, but Roder said the clean up may take a little longer.

"It's an incredible scene, one that you don't see very often," he said. "It would be equivalent to what you and I would have seen in the Middle East."

Fire crews also conducted a door-to-door check of all the adjacent buildings to ensure that someone in a nearby suite wasn't hurt by flying auto parts.

"We're happy to say that we weren't able to find any further injuries."

While Roder said such tanks aren't in common use, it's a good reminder to people who are transporting other tanks, such as propane containers, to make sure the tanks are transported in a well ventilated area.

Vancouver Police Const. Brian Montague said the cause of the blast is accidental and charges are not likely to be recommended.