Worker injured in dust explosion, fire at Vancouver port

A worker at the Port of Vancouver suffered significant burns in an explosion and fire at a grain silo Friday afternoon.

Fire crews were called to a grain terminal on Stewart Street around 3:45 p.m. for a report that an alarm was going off.

"Right away, we found an employee with quite severe second-degree burns," said Ken Gemmill, assistant chief of operations for the Vancouver Fire Rescue Service.

Gemmill said workers at the terminal described the incident as a "dust explosion," which happened when two employees were cleaning a grain silo.

Crews provided first aid to the injured employee, who was taken to hospital for further treatment.

Investigators spoke with several engineers and staff on scene, and determined that an open hatch at the bottom of the silo led to the explosion.

Firefighters closed the hatch immediately, and then sent crews up to the top of the silo, to look down inside and see if there was anything burning.

“It’s quite high, we consider it like a high rise fire,” he said.

Grain silo fires are difficult to respond to, Gemmill said, because it can be hard to see what’s happening inside, in part due to the height, and because it’s hard to see down into the silos from the small openings at the top.

Firefighters closed off any sources of air entering the silo, and then started spraying water inside.

“We opened (an) access (point to the silo and) we dumped three hose lines into it and just ran ’em for almost 3.5 hours,” Gemmill said.

While crews were able to contain the fire, Gemmill, speaking to CTV News Vancouver on Friday after the fire, said the health of the injured employee was on his mind.

“I’m gonna go to the hospital and check in on him. We gave him pretty immediate, prompt first aid so I’m hoping we cooled the burns fast enough so he doesn’t get a lot of scarring.”