B.C. Hydro says it is investigating the cause of an electrical explosion and fire that injured two people in downtown Vancouver on Friday night.
Witnesses reported hearing a loud boom and seeing a large fireball on Burrard Street between West Hastings and West Cordova streets shortly after 6 p.m. PT.
Nearby buildings and businesses were evacuated as city firefighters and police officers responded to the scene.
In a statement, the electric utility said determining the cause is a “top priority,” adding the incident was rare and it is focused on ensuring its electrical equipment is safe and reliable for customers.
Huge explosion outside the Marine Building on Burrard. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Vancouver?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Vancouver</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/explosion?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#explosion</a> <a href=”https://t.co/z8QVWV7iNt”>pic.twitter.com/z8QVWV7iNt</a>
Dan Nichols, acting assistant fire chief with Vancouver Fire Rescue Services, said about 45 firefighters were called to 355 Burrard St. for an explosion outside the Marine Building, an art deco-style skyscraper popular as a location for film and television productions.
“When crews got on scene, they were met with a fireball,” he said.
“It moved a pretty big piece of concrete, so it was a forceful blast.”
Nichols said fire crews tended to two people with facial lacerations and burns, but he wasn’t sure about the extent of their injuries. B.C. Emergency Health Services later told CBC that two patients were in stable condition.
Nichols suspects the fire was sparked in an electrical vault.
He said two buildings were damaged and windows were blown out, with the fire and smoke mainly affecting a JJ Bean coffee shop inside the Marine Building.
Nichols said firefighters quickly entered the building when they arrived but found it mostly empty aside from a few cleaning staff.
‘I’ve never seen a fire this big’: witness
Nick Tam, who was working in the building next to the JJ Bean at the time, said he heard the explosion and then fire alarms. When he and his co-workers evacuated, they were met with black smoke and flames in the street.
“There was a lot of urgency, a lot of us tossed in the street, getting away as far as possible as quickly as possible,” said Tam.
Gabriel Ramirez was driving past when the explosion happened.
“We had to stop and we had to come see it because I’ve never seen a fire this big in my life,” said Ramirez.
“It’s awesome to see how fast the fire trucks were able to take care of it. It really makes you feel safe knowing that they’re able to do that.”
TransLink said the Waterfront SkyTrain station was closed at the request of police due to an incident near Burrard and West Hastings.
In a tweet, the Vancouver Police Department said officers were assisting firefighters as they investigated an explosion and added that it was not believed to be a criminal act.
B.C. Hydro also came to help firefighters clear the scene. Their statement said the blast caused outages for seven customers, adding it’s working “around the clock” to restore their power.
“B.C. Hydro regularly maintains its equipment, and the electrical vault was last inspected less than a year ago and found to be operating normally.”
Nichols said shortly after 7:30 p.m. PT the fire had burned itself out and crews were focused on cleanup.
Just before 9:15 p.m., TransLink said Waterfront Station had re-opened and regular service had resumed.