Chemical fire at Port Metro Vancouver prompts police and health authority warnings

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      Today (March 3) a four-alarm fire burned inside the Port of Metro Vancouver facility in East Vancouver.

      It began at 1:40 p.m. The blaze subsequently spread to at least three containers. By 4 p.m., crews had yet to bring the fire under control.

      According to Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), the substance responsible for large clouds of smoke was trichloroisocyanuric acid, which is a bleaching compound that can be used as an industrial disinfectant.

      Police and fire authorities deployed teams equipped to respond to hazardous materials.

      VCH warned the substance is a respiratory irritant.

      Just before 3:30 p.m., the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) sent a message out over Twitter advising anyone east of Main Street and north of 1st Avenue to remain inside and to close their doors and windows. VCH subsequently stated that requirement to remain indoors should apply to people located as far east as Burnaby.

      Shortly after, a second VPD message stated an evacuation had not been ordered. However, if people do leave, it was requested they post a note on their door stating they have left the area safely.

      Lookout Emergency Aid Society encouraged anybody in the Downtown Eastside who did not have a place to stay to proceed to a shelter at 528 Powell Street. In addition, the City of Vancouver said it has staff helping homeless people find their way to the Carnegie Community Centre at Main and East Hastings streets and to other community centres in the neighbourhood. Those facilities remained open as long as they were needed.

      VCH advised anybody who was not inside to cover their nose and mouth with a wet towel.

      Port Metro Vancouver released a statement that specified the container fire was at the Centerm terminal on the south shore of the Burrard Inlet.

      "Our primary concern is the safety of first responders, the public and all port workers," reads the release. "The Centerm container terminal and nearby port properties have been evacuated.  All south shore of the Burrard inlet port operations have been shut down, including rail and truck access. Vancouver Fire and Vancouver Coastal Health are on-site and actively determining if any additional evacuations are required."

      At 4 p.m., TransLink reported that the incident had not impacted SeaBus or SkyTrain operations.

      The West Coast Express was experiencing significant delays long after the blaze was brought under control. TransLink advised people to instead take an M-Line to Lougheed Station for a special bus for the rest of the trip east. These directions were posted on Twitter: "#WCE special buses will operate from Lougheed Bay 2 & 9 will & terminate at Maple Meadows,WCE Train Bus from Maple Meadows to Mission^jd".

      By 4:45 p.m., photographs posted online showed the sky above Port Metro Vancouver had significantly cleared. Shortly after, Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services confirmed the blaze was contained.

      According to BC1 Global News, the city's response to the accident consisted of at least 65 firefighters, two fire boats, and two hazardous materials response teams.

      At 5:50 p.m., Port Metro Vancouver confirmed authorities had informed them people in affected areas could leave the places where they had taken shelter. "The City of Vancouver says that Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services has given the all clear and has lifted the shelter in place order," it wrote on Twitter.

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