Police find live explosives near site of Q.C. house fire and explosion

Police have found live explosives scattered near the house fire and explosion that rattled Queen Charlotte on Tuesday.

“These items are considered to be extremely dangerous, and if located, should not be handled by any member of the public,” says a notice from the RCMP.

Should anyone see suspicious items in the area, they are asked not to touch them and to immediately call local police at 250-559-4421.

A Queen Charlotte RCMP photo shows a blasting cap and other live explosives found near the site of the house fire and explosion that blasted the home at 622 7th Street on Tuesday. (RCMP/Submitted)

The RCMP’s explosives disposal unit and a team of visiting foresenic investigators has been working to secure and investigate the site since firefighters extinguished the resulting blaze on Wednesday.

The investigators’ site work at 622 7th Street is expected to may be done today, but the final report will likely take months to finish.

Queen Charlotte Fire Chief Larry Duke declared the long-smouldering fire extinguished on Wednesday night, after a more than 24-hour firefighting effort by both the Queen Charlotte and Skidegate crews.

Despite the house fire, warnings of wildfire danger, and a Haida Gwaii-wide campfire ban, volunteer firefighters also got called to an illegal campfire on Wednesday, plus a spot fire likely sparked by someone tossing a cigarette at a pull-out in Skidegate Landing.

Given all the firefighting, village residents were under emergency water restrictions. As of Friday morning, the village is back to Level 1 restrictions due to dry weather.

Level 1 water restrictions mean that lawn watering is prohibited, and vehicle washing is limited to washing with a handheld hose. Swimming pools and hot tubs should not be filled, nor should driveways or walkways be hosed clean.

Anyone affected by the explosion and fire on Tuesday who would like to speak with a counsellor is invited to call Alison McDonald (250-280-7896) or Carrie-Lee Duke (778-361-0265) for a confidential appointment. McDonald is a clinical counselling student doing a practicum at the Skidegate Health Centre, and Duke is a self-regulation therapist trained in trauma support.

To help make a timeline of events, the Village of Queen Charlotte is asking anyone with date/time-stamped photos or videos of the fire to drop them off at the village office or email them to office@queencharlotte.ca.

No one was inside the home on 7th Street when the fire started, but some firefighters and bystanders suffered minor injuries following the explosion around 4:45 p.m. Tuesday. Some bystanders reported seeing blasting caps for industrial explosives scattered onto 7th Street.

Two Queen Charlotte families are currently without a home because of the fire and are staying with friends. Some surrounding buildings have structural damage, and village staff are working to help both home and business owners with any related insurance claims.

Bystanders who saw the Tuesday house fire said it seemed to start when someone was working on the roof, and though it started as a small spot fire, the wind was strong enough to fan it until the whole roof was engulfed.

Firefighters were called to the scene at about 4:30 p.m. and were on scene when the fire spread into the house and caused an explosion so loud that people heard it 10 km away in Skidegate.

“It literally felt like it took your breath away. It was just this insane concussive force,” said Jeff Quigley, who was standing at the corner of 7th and Oceanview when it happened.

“You could see pieces of debris flying out everywhere.”

The fire melted siding off a neighbouring house, and people reported broken windows in homes several streets away.

Quigley said for a time after the explosion, firefighters were forced back, training their hoses on the flames from a distance.

Emergency responders and village residents praised the quick response of firefighters, and especially the Skidegate crew who arrived to offer mutual aid.

At one point, spot fires had spread to surrounding houses and dry grasses after burning debris and cinders flew out from the explosion, but firefighters managed to contain the blaze.

On Wednesday, the BC Wildfire Service put a campfire ban in effect across Haida Gwaii due to unseasonably dry conditions. Larger, open fires have been banned since July 25.

Despite rain across the islands Thursday, the weather outlook for Friday and the weekend looks dry.


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The moment of the explosion. (Jamie Pollard/Facebook)

A cloud rises from the house moments after the explosion. (Fran Fowler/Submitted)

Bystanders said what began as a spot fire soon engulfed the roof and spread inside when it was fanned by the wind. (Fran Fowler/Submitted)

(Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)

(Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)

(Angela Anderson/Submitted)

(Angela Anderson/Submitted)

(Angela Anderson/Submitted)

(Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)

(Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)

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