Calgary Fire Department suspects house explosion caused by natural gas leak

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Fire officials suspect natural gas leak caused Calgary house explosion
WATCH: One day after a massive explosion rocked a northeast community, the Calgary Fire Department said early indicators show a natural gas leak is the most likely cause. Adam MacVicar reports. – Mar 28, 2023

An explosion that destroyed a Calgary home and sent 10 to hospital on Monday morning is suspected to be caused by natural gas.

“At this time, (the Calgary Fire Department) suspects the explosion was caused by a natural gas leak and has sent equipment pulled from the home for investigation by a third party,” a CFD statement on Tuesday reads. “Results from the investigation will not be available for a few weeks.”

In addition to one home being levelled by the explosion, two other homes in the Marlborough neighbourhood caught fire and eight others were damaged by debris. Nearby vehicles were also damaged.

The CFD said it does not have an estimate on the dollar value of the damage at this time.

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Fire crews were able to put out the fires on Monday and fire investigators took over.

Natural gas utility provider Atco told Global News no natural gas-related service calls in the area have been made in the past.

Ten people were sent to hospital from the scene – six in life-threatening condition and four in serious condition.

Rima Rifai thought her furnace had exploded Monday when the house across the street burst into a ball of fire.

“The whole top of the house that had exploded was completely off. There was nothing but smoke and there was a small flame,” she said.

“You could see the residents that were living in there trying to get out.

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“It was like something from a movie. It was terrifying,”

Rifai and her neighbours immediately pulled out items like blankets, chairs and water for the folks who lived across the street.

“They weren’t speaking. There were not even sounds of pain or any speech. Nothing at all. There was more shock,” she told Global News.

Gar Gar, a leader in the South Sudanese community, said he is helping community members get info on visiting family members in hospitals.

“I think the first thing that comes to mind is that there might be no survivors. So even just hearing that there are survivors and some are in critical conditions or even that are better. Those are the things that we look at and we say we are thankful for,” he said.

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Gar joined cousins and nephews at city hospitals, who were able to visit the victims not in critical condition.

“I met a son who came to the hospital and went in and saw his dad and you could see the tears in his eyes. That sounds like it’s related to something that he saw and the shape his father is in,” Gar said.

“We’re hoping within the next few days we will go in and actually talk to them and that will give us an opportunity to learn more about what happened,” he said.

“The reality after (the explosion) is they are basically right now with no home there. They just lost, in a blink of an eye, everything that they have.”

Gar said one of the victims recently lost his job in Fort McMurray and came to Calgary seeking employment, while also having to support family members.

He added the search has already begun for accommodations for when the victims get out of hospital. Fundraising efforts are also underway to help purchase basic items like clothing for the explosion victims.

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Gar said the home explosion was another recent shock to Calgary’s South Sudanese community.

“Everybody was crying, thinking that the worst happened, that some of them lost their life,” Gar said of the calls he’s been fielding. “The community was devastated when something like this happened.

“And also we want more details like, how did it happen? What happened inside? How did the fire start?”

Area city councillor Andre Chabot said he is concerned about the ward residents’ safety and well-being of the 10 people who were hospitalized.

“Obviously, I’m going to want to know what the root cause was and figure out if there’s anything we could do in conjunction with Atco Gas to find solutions to ensure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen again,” Chabot told Global News.

The Ward 10 councillor suggested there might be an opportunity for the city to launch a multilingual education campaign around natural gas leaks in homes.

–with files from Paula Tran, Global News and The Canadian Press

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