Malton, ON Gas Main Explosion, Oct 1969
A GIANT BLOWTORCH.
MALTON GAS MAIN BLAST KILLS WOMAN, INIJURES 22 AND MELTS CARS LIKE WAX.
Toronto (CP) - A giant blowtorch caused by an exploding gas main melted automobiles like wax, killed one woman, injured 22 other persons and destroyed at least 10 stores in suburban Malton Saturday.
Burned-out shells of buildings, trucks and cars and a blackened trench 50 feet long and 15 feet deep - the pipe of the torch - were reminders of the scorcher that held fire departments at bay for 4 1/2 hours until Consumers' Gas Co. could shut it off.
Fire Chief Joseph Miller of Mississauga estimated damage at $1,500,000 "or maybe more."
The roaring gas sprayed mud and rocks as far as 300 yards into a shopping area as it blew up and spewed flames and heat 150 feet into the air.
The roaring was so loud that panic-stricken shouts became whispers as residents and business people fled in every direction.
"What it didn't burn it melted," said John Pollard, commissioner of emergency services for Metropolitan
Toronto. "It was a miracle that people got away."
The blast and heat, besides destroying stores along Derry Road East and Airport Road, caused extensive damage to many more. Paint blistered from the office walls of the Douglas Aircraft Co. of Canada Ltd. plant 100 yards across the road to the west.
The heat ignited cars and wood as far away as 200 yards south of the funnel of flame.
Several Malton hotels opened their rooms to evacuees as police made hundreds leave their homes.
Ron Smith, who lives four blocks away, said most people didn't want to be told.
"It just seemed like a hell of a good idea."
When things cooled off, police Sunday found the charred remains of MRS. JEAN PERIGO, 73, in the ruins of her house, less than 50 feet from the explosion.
Nineteen others were treated in area hospitals and released. But three others, SHOON CHU, JOSEPH BELL and GARY SCOTT, were still in hospital, suffering from burns, smoke inhalation and shock.
Fighting the fire involved 100 police from Toronto, the town of Mississauga, of which Malton is a part, the RCMP, the provincial police and all the firemen and fire equipment of Malton, Brampton, Bramaica, Mississauga and the Toronto Borough of Etobicoke.
At the height of the fire four firemen stood on the roof of the Douglas plant, hosing down the sheet metal walls. They had cotton stuffed in their ears to keep out the roar of the gas. The water evaporated before it hit the ground.
Police later reported that 46 cars and trucks and one camper trailer were destroyed by the heat. Tires melted right off cars as far away at 200 yards and a small car in the path of the shooting, searing gas, was reduced to steel rims and drive shaft in a pile of ash and melted metal.
The electricity and telephones in the area failed at once and in some cases were not restored until early Sunday.
A woman who lives half a mile away from the explosion said she was sitting at her picture window reading when she felt intense heat on her arm.
Then she heard the explosion and looked out to see "a huge ball of fire hanging in the air." She said she ran out toward the scene but the heat drove her back a quarter of a mile form it.
More than 400 police, Red Cross workers, emergency services department personnel and others worked throughout Saturday night under the eerie glow of spotlights and flashing emergency lights amid the acrid smell of burning rubble.
Police Chief Garnet McGill of Mississauga said an investigation by fire department's police, the Ontario fire marshal's office and the provincial department of energy and resources will be held starting today.
The gas company said the cause of the break was unknown. It issued a prepared statement to newspapers Sunday which said the line which ruptured was "operating at a pressure less than half of that for which it was designed and tested."
R. W. Long, general superintendent of operations for the firm, said
"A great variety of road paving and underground construction activity has been carried on in the vicinity within the past year and it is possible that this activity may have resulted in disturbance or damage to our facilities."
"The 12-inch line was installed within the last 12 years. Inspections Saturday and Sunday showed no evidence of corrosion or any other form of deterioration."
Ottawa Journal Ontario Canada 1969-10-27