Edmontonians mark anniversary of Mill Woods explosion which resulted in safety improvements in Alberta
On March 2, 1979, an estimated 19,000 Edmontonians were evacuated from homes, schools and businesses after a pipeline ruptured in Mill Woods.
No one was killed but one man, Peter Clark, was severely injured.
Clark was driving a delivery truck that went through a cloud of what he though was mist, but was actually propane.
The gas ignited causing an explosion and fire that lasted 16 hours.
The devastation led to several safety improvements in Alberta and across the country.
“I find it all emotionally moving,” Clark said.
He was one of several people, attending an event at the Mill Woods Library Saturday, commemorating the historic explosion and the changes that resulted from it.
“So many people have gone through terrible things in their lives, Clark added. “I finally had that opportunity to say thank you back to the community. I’ve tried to use my experience over the years, to deliver a message.”
To this day, it’s still unclear what exactly caused the rupture or where it originated. It’s believed the propane migrated into nearby sewers and ditches.
The evacuation lasted 22 hours.
The explosion brought significant changes to digging practices across Canada.
“That was the catalyst for Alberta One Call, we’ve taken over 10 million requests since we began,” said Mike Sullivan with Alberta One Call. “This was a big milestone in Alberta and in damage prevention in Canada.”
Sullivan said there is now a “one-call” in every province.
Edmonton-Mill Woods MLA Christina Gray called the explosion “a unique moment in history that had a profound effect on our community, our province and our country.”
“It is still one of the largest civic evacuations in Alberta history,” Gray added. “It had a profound effect on how we create safe work environments in our province.”
The incident also led to the creation of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency along with the Edmonton Area Pipeline and Utility Operators’ Committee.
“A tree, a fence, any ground disturbance, you should ‘Click Before You Dig,'” said Jonas Porter with the Edmonton Area Pipeline and Utility Operators’ Committee.
“Today there are roughly about 3500-4000 damages voluntarily reported and in 50 per cent of the cases the person digging did not request to locate,” Sullivan said.