A large fire at a Yarrow gas station forced the evacuation of nearby homes and businesses Wednesday morning.
The blaze, at an Esso gas station on Yarrow Central Road, began in a garage attached to the station and quickly spread, rupturing a natural gas line and causing more than a dozen explosions.
The blaze prompted officials to clear a 1,000-foot perimeter around the station and shut down Yarrow Central Road. Flames shot more than 30 feet into the air and billowed columns of black smoke skyward.
One man sustained burns on his forearms and was treated at Chilliwack General Hospital. While the building- which housed both a gas station and an attached paint shop-are write offs, assistant fire chief Ian Josephson said the owner has insurance. A home just to the west of the station escaped damage except several cracked windows.
The blaze was brought under control around noon and residents were allowed to return home soon after.
Within 10 minutes of breaking out, the fire had taken over the building, according to Mike Murphy, who lives directly across the street from the station.
Murphy, an electrical engineer, said the ruptured gas line "sounded like a jet engine" as the fuel burned. Afraid of a massive explosion, Murphy's wife, Faith, scrambled to ensure the safety of the family's pets. She placed a rabbit in a bathtub and a ferret in a hallway, while bringing the Murphy's three dogs and other small rabbit out behind the house.
There, Mike said the family could see the flames billowing skyward from the other side of their home.
The family was relieved to return to their house an hour later, but Mike expressed sympathy for those who work at the businesses affected- including the gas station and the paint shop attached to the rear of the building.
"It's a hell of a shame," he said. "A lot of people lost their livelihoods."
Josephson said the fire appeared to have started as the occupants of the garage were working on a vehicle. After the fire broke out, Josephson said a man from the gas station tried to douse the flames with the contents of three fire extinguishers.
"He thought he had it out, but he said the gas was pouring out of [what] he thinks was the gas tank at the bottom of the vehicle."
For firefighters, the blaze presented an elevated risk.
"Anytime you've got people working on vehicles there are always additional hazards," said Josephson. While the gas station operator had shut off access to a large propane tank on site, no similar action was taken on two underground fuel tanks.
They did not ignite, but Josephson said the chief risk came from gas vapors.
He said explosions reported may have been from aerosol cans in the garage or from small propane tanks.