The explosion that destroyed a West Park home and left a family homeless in April has been sourced to a gas leak near the utilities room in basement.
Steve Gallioux, Red Deer Emergency Services fire inspector, said while they know a gas leak was part of the problem, sourcing the ignition is very difficult. There are several sources that may have sparked the ignition, including pilot lights for both the furnace and hot water tank, or other devices in the home.
This means that while they know it was a gas leak that caused the explosion, it is being marked as an accidental fire with an undetermined cause.
“It was definitely a gas leak,” said Gailloux. “We believe the leak occurred in the utility room, near the water heater.”
Fire crews were called at 7:12 a.m. on April 12 to the residence at 530 Wishart St. by an occupant who was awakened by the smell of gas.
Two occupants of the home called 911 and fled the building. They were outside when the gas ignited, blowing three walls out, knocking the house off its foundation and setting off a major fire.
Getting inside the home and inspecting the damage and its cause proved to be labourious due to the damage. Before inspectors could get in they had to get the help of forensic engineers. Sintra Engineering of Edmonton reinforced the structure to make it safe for people to move through it.
“I know when we got out there, nobody could go in,” said Mark Hughes, Sintra president. “For us the first thing to do is to figure out whether or not anybody could go in and what needed to be done so people could go in.”
Sintra Engineering typically works for insurance companies and law firms dealing with losses. They were called to shore up the home, making it safe for investigators to do their job. Sintra also has a role in the investigation of the fire.
They strategically place shoring posts to reinforce the structure.
“As with any structure we look to where the main structural elements are, which ones have moved, which ones haven’t and find ways to shore the main structure,” said Hughes.
“Once they are re-supported with a temporary shoring, then it is safe to go back in and do what needs to be done.”
The building is likely beyond repair.
“They’d be lucky if they saved the foundation on it,” said Gallioux. “Structurally between the explosion damage and the fire damage, I don’t think there is enough of the building left to recover.”