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What Vernon firefighters hope you do differently to prevent another tragedy

It was a close call April 8 when Vernon firefighters discovered flammable materials in a shipping container while at the scene of a dumpster fire.
Image Credit: Vernon Fire Department
April 10, 2015 - 8:29 AM

VERNON - Conditions at a fire scene this week gave crews flashbacks to conditions that killed an Enderby firefighter several years ago, and the Vernon Fire Department is now issuing a public warning in the hopes of preventing another tragedy.

Crews responded to a dumpster fire around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, April 8, on 14 Avenue, deputy fire chief Jack Blair says. Firefighters extinguished the blaze easily enough, and it wasn’t until they started investigating the scene they discovered another danger: smouldering items and jugs of gasoline inside a metal shipping container next to the dumpster.

Because sea-can storage containers have very little ventilation, they can create explosions if flammable liquids or gases are inside.

“We could have had a catastrophic explosion if it had been a larger fire or was burning longer,” Blair says.

Daniel Joseph Botkin, 25, was killed in 2011 when a shipping container exploded and he was struck by a 113-kilogram door. The fire was likely caused when the plastic on several chainsaws melted and the fuel seeped out.

“That’s why we put out a reminder to everybody that those containers are not to be used for the storage of flammable liquids, we don’t want those situations to happen,” Blair says.

Sea-cans have become a popular means of storage in recent years, but Blair says they are not allowed to be used for flammable or combustible materials unless they have been properly vented and placarded.

“You see these containers all over the place and we don’t know what’s in them,” Blair says. “The fact of the matter is we were lucky this time and hopefully people will learn.”

At this time, it is unknown whether the fire in the dumpster was deliberately set, or if it was caused by discarded smoker’s material.

After Botkin’s death, Emergency Management B.C. issued a shipping container safety bulletin, and the Fire Chief’s Association of B.C. published a paper about how risks could be mitigated in the future.

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, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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