A pair of firefighters with Fernie Fire and Rescue work to put out the flames at a home that had a gas explosion in Fernie on 6th Ave. on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. (Courtesy of Brendan Morgan)

A pair of firefighters with Fernie Fire and Rescue work to put out the flames at a home that had a gas explosion in Fernie on 6th Ave. on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022. (Courtesy of Brendan Morgan)

Fernie home explosion in February blamed on exposed gas line

Technical Safety BC investigated the incident and seeks to raise awareness about the cause

A gas explosion that reduced a Fernie home to rubble in February has prompted Technical Safety BC (TSBC), to call for greater education and awareness about working around natural gas lines.

The TSBC investigated the Fernie incident as well as a major explosion that happened at the Canadian Forces Base Comox in November 2021, which injured 28 people.

Both the Fernie and Comox incidents were caused by exposed natural gas lines.

Ryan Hazlett, leader of incident investigation at TSBC, said in a release that the similarities between the two incidents only months apart pointed to a need for more education.

”Many people know to ‘call before you dig,” he said, “but it’s important to understand what precautions must be taken before digging, during excavation, and once the gas line is exposed.

“Unfortunately, nearly half of all gas line hits in British Columbia occur despite workers taking initial precautions such as calling BC1 before digging,” Hazlett said.

“This is why we are urging workers and those undertaking DIY excavation to better understand the risks involved with digging near gas lines and the extra precautions they can take once gas lines are exposed.”

TSBC is reminding people that expose gas lines are vulnerable to mechanical damage and present an increased risk of a gas leak or explosion from getting hit if proper precautions are not taken regarding containment and ignition risks.

F0llowing the investigations, they are urging people doing excavating work to consider the following.

“That the use of mechanical excavators near gas lines, especially close to buildings should be avoided unless: The risk of explosion has been completely assessed, and additional steps have been taken to mitigate the risk and impact if a gas line is hit. Those who are digging pay close attention to where they are digging and any structures that may be nearby. Those on-site are aware of the dangers of an exposed gas line and ensure they are working safely around it. Extra precautions are taken before and after a gas line is exposed. It’s important to have a plan in place should there be a gas leak or explosion after the gas line has been exposed.”

Every year in B.C., there are hundreds of incidents where buried gas lines and utilities are damaged by homeowners or contractors who are excavating or digging, despite having checked for gas lines before digging, the release says.

“These incidents put people at risk, cause traffic and service interruptions, and often result in costly repairs; however, they can be avoided.”

For more information and available courses about the risks associated with digging near gaslines, visit https://commongroundbc.ca/ground-disturbance-training-standard/.

“Always ensure that before you dig, you schedule a locate request online at www.bc1c.ca, or by phone at 1 800 474 6886. This free online service is available 24/7 365 days a year. Requests should be made a minimum of three full business days before the planned excavation.”

For the reports on the Fernie and Comox incident investigations, visit https://www.technicalsafetybc.ca/public-safety/gas-line-safety.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Woman ‘miraculously’ escapes residence following gas explosion

READ MORE: 2021 B.C. military base blast blamed on punctured gas line


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