Warning lifted as crews fight fire at deep-water shipping terminal in B.C.

Dark and smelly smoke from a fire at a deep-water port billowed over the town of Squamish, B.C., Thursday night April 16, 2015, forcing municipal officials to ask residents to stay indoors.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Silvester Law

SQUAMISH, B.C. - Crews were battling a fire at the Squamish Terminals deep-water port in British Columbia on Friday, but an earlier warning to residents to stay indoors was no longer in effect.

The District of Squamish said it was lifting the alert Friday morning, but said it might need to be reinstated if air quality deteriorated.

The district said schools were open, but students would be kept indoors all day as provincial officials monitored air quality and crews fought the blaze.

The fire was reported to be contained but not extinguished by Friday morning.

Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services said its boat will be used to put out a blaze under the dock after the high tide recedes.

Kim Stegeman of Squamish Terminals said the fire broke out early Thursday evening at the facility at the north end of Howe Sound and about an hour's drive from Vancouver. There were no reported injuries.

"There was a ship at the dock, but it did not catch fire," she said. "It is safe and away from danger ... Everyone who was working on site was accounted for and evacuated."

Stegeman said she doesn't know how the blaze started. It originated on the dock's wooden east berth and burning creosote pilings prompted the air quality warning, she said.

By Friday morning, thin, clear smoke billowed in the air and extensive damage could be seen on the charred and smouldering dock.

"It's a significant incident for us and we will have to assess," she said, adding that employees were not working the day shift Friday. "We want to be sure that we can safely get back to work."

Stegeman said authorities are investigating the cause of the blaze as well as whether the district could have been better prepared, including whether Squamish needs its own fire and rescue boat.

The fire emitted what Squamish Mayor Patricia Heintzman said was dark, strong, pungent and toxic-smelling smoke that prompted the warning to residents to stay indoors.

Residents had been asked to keep doors and windows closed, turn off ventilation systems if possible and cover their noses and mouths with a wet towel if venturing outdoors.

A spokeswoman for B.C. Emergency Health Services said four ambulance crews, a helicopter and a critical-care team had been on standby, but no one was transported.


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