Monday, May 1, 2017

Toronto's Financial District Rocked by Hydro Vault Explosion

TORONTO - Firefighters say a hydro vault fire that set off a series of blasts and temporarily shut down streets in Toronto’s downtown core has been extinguished.

Capt. Adrian Ratushniak says the blaze smouldered for more than 12 hours after a series of explosions sent heavy brown smoke billowing from grates on the north side of King St. W., between Yonge and Bay Sts., but crews put out the remains of the fire on Tuesday morning.

He says fire crews will remain on scene as a precaution while hydro crews begin the work of replacing a transformer damaged in the blaze.

There were no injuries in the incident, which began with an initial explosion in a hydro vault shortly after 5 p.m. Monday.

Ratushniak says crews initially had to fight the fire with carbon dioxide gas because dumping water on the energized hydro vault would have been dangerous. They were eventually able to extinguish the blaze with water.

Toronto Hydro has said crews would have to pump water out of the vault and dry the equipment before venturing inside to start repairs.

“Very scary scene,” hydro spokesman Tori Gass told reporters at the site Monday night. “I just want to reassure people, we have been responding to this quickly and actively, I’m sure this happened at a time when it was very busy on the streets, It’s never easy to see something like this happen.”

Toronto Fire Services Platoon Chief Kevin Shaw said Monday that typically rain, humidity, dampness ges into the infrastructure, which may be older and deteriorating, and causes these fires.

 “There’s all sorts of different plastics. Everything is a carcinogen," Shaw said. "Probably some plastics, basically, it’s an electrical fire.”

Pedestrians gathered nearby covered their faces with hands and scarfs, while police who guarded the intersection wore masks as the smoke filled the air.

Mike Amsterdam tweeted out a video of the smoke following the first explosion.

“This was 20 seconds after first explosion,” he wrote. “I had just walked across those grates.”

There were also reports of manhole covers popping up from the street.

The incident had disrupted transit service in the area, but Toronto transit officials said the King subway station returned to operation late Monday and north-south buses along both Yonge and Bay streets were running as usual. The east-west King St. streetcar was still being diverted.

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