A number of Etobicoke businesses were evacuated after a fire ignited outside an equipment rental businesses on Tuesday afternoon, engulfing dozens of propane tanks.
The three-alarm fire was first reported at around 3:40 p.m. at a business near Racine Road and Brydon Drive, which is in the vicinity of Kipling Avenue and Rexdale Boulevard.
Fire Chief Matthew Pegg says that upon arrival crews encountered “heavy fire that was impinging on a number of propane and compressed gas cylinders on the outside of the building” and immediately took a defensive position.
He said that the fire eventually spread to several parked vehicles but crews were able to get it under control before it extended to the building itself.
“These are very complicated, complex and dangerous fires for our crews as they have to get close enough in order to deploy ground monitors – unstaffed monitors to flow water – and aerial towers, the principal goal to keep those cylinders cool,” he said. “Happy to say the fire is now under control and there are no reported injuries.”
Pegg said that he has been told that some of the propane tanks outside the business weighed up to 100 lbs.
There were reports of the sound of explosions as the fire burned, though crews have not yet determined whether any of the propane tanks actually burst.
The cause of the fire itself also remains unclear.
“It is very hard to discern when the incident is live whether that is an explosion or the relief of a pressure relief valve.
Officers attend the scene of a fire and explosion in Etobicoke. (Sean MacInnes/CTV News TOronto)
Any flammable or compresses gas cylinder is equipped with a pressure relief valve so in the event there is an impingement of heat that pressure relief vale will release. It will release gas, there will be an ignition of that gas but it is designed to prevent that cylinder from actually exploding,” Pegg said.
“So it is quite possible that initially there was gas venting, there would have been a number of sounds that sounded like an explosion and part of our responsibility once we have the fire fully extinguished will be to do the origin and cause investigation which will scientifically determine whether or not there was an explosion but it is far too early to confirm.”
At the height of the fire there were approximately 30 different apparatuses and 100 firefighters on scene but Pegg said that the response has since been scaled back.
He said that it was a “very challenging incident” that had the potential to be very significant,” were it not for the actions of Toronto firefighters.
“It was absolutely well managed and they brought it under control very quickly,” he said.
Racine Road remains closed between Martin Grove Road and Kipling Avenue as result of the blaze.