Gas line rupture sends flame soaring

A ruptured natural gas line was the source of a massive fire that broke out north of the city on Tuesday evening.

An intense orange glow topped by a large plume of smoke dominated the skyline in that direction for some time as firefighters, ambulance and police rushed to the scene at about 5:30 p.m.

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People living in the vicinity, meanwhile, headed in the other direction.

Between 70 and 80 people living on the north side of the Lheidli T'enneh reserve were evacuated.

"It was a bit frantic," said Terry Teegee.

"I just heard it at the start," added Teegee. "I thought it might have been a jet engine or a low-flying jet. And the next thing that came to mind is that maybe it's a train but that's way too loud.

"But then, as soon as I looked outside, I saw a massive fireball about a half a kilometre to a kilometre away behind the community."

He said the subsequent evacuation to the band's community hall on the south side of the river was a "little bit frantic as you can imagine," but everyone arrived safely.

Rodney Godwin and his family live on Estate Road, near the end of Landooz Road and just across the Fraser River from the Shelley townsite. They heard the sound of thunder shortly after 5:30 p.m. and when Godwin looked across the way, he saw a flame shooting into the sky.

They left their home shortly after that. Police soon had a perimeter established and weren't allowing anyone back in until it was deemed safe. The evacuation zone was initially for several kilometres but within a couple hours was reduced to one kilometre, allowing residents to return home.

Godwin and his family bided their time watching the slowly-shrinking fireball from a pullout along Northwood Pulp Mill Road while awaiting for the go-ahead to return home.

RCMP said there were no injuries and no reported damage other than to the pipeline itself and as of about 7:30 p.m. the gas supply had been shut down.

"There is no indication of a cause at this point in time," RCMP said. Investigators will conduct an examination of the scene and a further update will be forthcoming tomorrow (Wednesday)."

British Columbia's Ministry of Environment said the incident involved 900 PSI gas line operated by Enbridge.

Following the pipeline explosion and fire, the City of Prince George activated its Emergency Operations Centre and is prepared to deliver emergency support services in conjunction with the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George, if required. See the city's website ( for details.

Tom Neufeld, a spokesperson for the National Energy Board, said explosion occurred on the Enbridge Westcoast Mainline - a 36-inch natural gas pipeline.

The NEB, which regulates the pipeline, has sent investigators to assist investigators from the Transportation Safety Board, who are responsible for the investigation. In addition, Neufeld said, the NEB has activated its emergency operations centre in Calgary to respond to the situation.

No injuries were reported in the explosion, Neufeld added.

-- With files from Jason Peters and Arthur Williams

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