The investigation into what caused a natural gas transmission pipeline owned and operated by energy giant Enbridge has been elevated from a regional to a provincial level, officials confirmed to Global BC on Wednesday.
The BC RCMP are now taking over what will be a lengthy and complicated investigation, due to what officials are calling its “potential scope and scale,” if the explosion is ultimately deemed to be a criminal matter—or one involving terrorism.
Officials say it is too early to say if that pipeline, which ruptured and exploded roughly 13 kilometres northeast of Prince George Tuesday evening, was intentionally compromised.
The blast forced the evacuation of dozens of properties at Lheidli T’enneh Nation.
WATCH: Enbridge gets approval to restart secondary gas line
“I had a panic attack,” evacuee Phyllis Seymour said. “I was holding my head. And we were all watching as the fireball grew.”
Nearby, across the Fraser River, another resident watched the plume of smoke rise, though from a different vantage point.
“Oh, the noise! It was continual noise,” said Wendy Spraggs, a resident of the community of Shelley, when asked about what she witnessed. “The burning of the gas!”
WATCH: Evacuees return home after pipeline explosion near Prince George, B.C.
But Spraggs said she simply feels fortunate to still have her house intact. The blast, which occurred not far from her house, shook the house’s frame, and Spraggs said she was surprised her windows didn’t break.
“I’m thinking there might be a run on electric stoves, and electric heaters,” Spraggs added. And she could be right.
Fortis BC made an unprecedented appeal to its customers, in light of the gas line explosion, to scale back on their use of natural gas early Wednesday.
None of the company’s infrastructure was damaged in the explosion, though it relies on the line that was ruptured to serve its customers. That line is now out of commission for an indeterminate amount of time.
WATCH: Aerials show aftermath of Enbridge pipeline explosion near Prince George
Enbridge officials say they have no definitive timeline on the reparations of that ruptured pipeline, noting their crews are having difficulty accessing the area of the blast due to hot spots, as debate rages over the issue of pipelines, and their safety in this province.
“Well, we’re anxious to learn the outcome of the investigation,” said Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall. “But there’s no doubt it’s certainly resurrecting the debate over pipelines and how safe they are.”
It’s an issue that now hits far too close to home for evacuees like Seymour.
“I’m actually scared to walk through my door,” she said, as she was preparing to return to her house on Wednesday.