A gas pipeline exploded around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday sending a massive fireball into the air in the small community of Shelley, near Prince George.
Nobody was injured but about 100 people from the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation were ordered to evacuate as a precaution.
“My stepdad starts hollering that the gas pipeline blew up so we grabbed all our animals and all our stuff and just got out of there as quick as we could,” said nearby resident Megan Clark.
The rupture happened in a 36-inch natural gas transmission pipeline owned by Enbridge. A parallel 30-inch line was also shut down to assess potential damage.
It happened in a spot that will impact the supply to most of B.C. About 700,000 FortisBC customers including all of those on Vancouver Island could be impacted by the shortage.
FortisBC said it is activating both of its LNG storage facilities, one in Delta and one near Ladysmith to try to cope, but is asking people to cut down.
“So turn down your thermostat as low as possible, restrict the use of hot water from your natural gas hot water tank, minimize the use of cooktops and turn off your fireplaces,” said Doug Stout, Vice-President of Market and Development and External Relations with FortisBC.
The Greater Victoria School District said it got an email from FortisBC Wednesday morning and promptly turned down the heat in all buildings.
But Director of Facilities Chuck Morris said students and teachers shouldn’t notice much of a difference.
“So we’ve dropped that down from approximately 20 to about 16, 17,” Morris said.
“If we need to we’ll make adjustments to make sure they’re comfortable and can teach properly and kids can learn properly in that environment.”
Municipalities like Victoria and Saanich also turned the heat down in their facilities and the University of Victoria is taking it a step further — it shut off its natural gas completely and switched to a backup diesel system.
Island Health said all of its facilities are considered high priority customers by FortisBC and they have not been asked to reduce consumption at this point.
They say if they are asked they can switch to a backup fuel oil system and there should be minimal impact.
While the flames have been put out the two major gas pipelines remain out of service and Enbridge says it isn’t sure when they will be back up and running.
The National Energy Board is investigating the cause.