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Firefighters did not 'appreciate the danger' of shipping container that exploded, killing fireman

Daniel Botkin, 25, died Dec. 29, 2011 in a shipping container explosion.
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October 24, 2014 - 11:10 AM

VERNON - A volunteer fireman was in the wrap-up stage of a fire call when a shipping container exploded a few metres away and he was struck by a large metal door flying through the air, the B.C. Coroners Service said.

Daniel Joseph Botkin, 25, was killed by multiple blunt force trauma on impact, coroner Margaret Janzen said in a report on his death Dec. 29, 2011. Botkin was called out with the Enderby Fire Department around 3:51 a.m. that day to battle a fire at a log home manufacturing site.

When the fire at the main facility was felt to be under control, firefighters were told to change from the initial attack protocol to a mop-up procedure. Around 5:10 a.m. Botkin and another firefighter were moving a water hose around the structure when a metal shipping container exploded roughly three to five metres away. The explosion dislodged the container’s 113 kg doors and sent them catapulting through the air. The door that struck Botkin continued on its path until it hit a crane parked roughly 43 metres away.

Post-fire investigation revealed there was a number of chainsaws inside the container. The plastic components were melted and any fuel in them would have escaped. Remnants of what was believed to be a methyl hydrate container were also found.

“The explosion was felt to have occurred when the fuel from the chainsaws and methyl hydrate detonated,” Janzen said.

Another fireman sustained minor injuries. At one point, firefighters had been standing on the container while attacking the blaze in the main facility.

“Interviews with the witnesses showed that the firefighters did not appreciate the danger that the shipping container posed,” Janzen said.

They did not see threat cues such as venting smoke, peeling paint, or noise indicating danger. Because of the accident, Janzen said the Office of the Fire Commissioner published a safety advisory bulletin for fire personnel working near shipping containers where flammable liquids or explosives are stored. WorkSafe B.C. also published a Hazard Alert. Both documents were distributed to all B.C. fire departments, and the Fire Chiefs Association prepared a position paper with several recommendations on intermodal shipping container safety.

Due to the extensive review by other agencies and the recommendations of the Fire Chiefs Association, Janzen made no further recommendations.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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