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Explosion and major fire in southern Ottawa sends 3 people to hospital

Three people were rushed to hospital Thursday after an apparent explosion and fire on Merivale Road in south Ottawa, according to police and paramedics.

Firefighters received several 911 calls Thursday around 1:30 p.m. regarding a large fire at 1995 Merivale Rd. Between Cleopatra Drive and Slack Road in the Nepean area, according to the Ottawa Fire Department.

A spokesperson told CBC News that 911 callers reported seeing flames 15 to 18 meters in the air. He said the building which was on fire and the surrounding area were quickly evacuated.

Paramedics initially said they took two people to hospital, but corrected this to three – two in critical condition, one in stable condition – in an update Thursday afternoon.

‘Reunification Center’ at the nearby church

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and at least one witness identified the fire site as Eastway Tank Pump & Meter Ltd., a manufacturer of custom tankers whose address matches the one shared by firefighters.

Eastway has yet to return CBC calls.

The City of Ottawa has established a “family reunification center” at the Woodvale Pentecostal Church at 205 Greenbank Road. so that all people working on the fire site are counted.

Families and employees are all expected to attend tonight, the Ottawa Fire Department said.

Ottawa Police are still determining if anyone is missing, and the reunification center will assist with that investigation, a spokesperson told CBC.

Police, firefighters and paramedics have yet to give any indication that there have been any deaths. At 7 p.m., emergency teams were still looking for the scene and monitoring any outbreaks.

Smoke rises in the distance following an explosion and fire on Merivale Road in southern Ottawa on Thursday afternoon. (Submitted)

No risk for residents, authorities say

The building that caught fire was completely ablaze when firefighters arrived at the scene, and the roof began to collapse shortly after, the Ottawa Fire Services said in a press release Thursday evening.

The scene was littered with a number of hazards, including live electrical wires and propane tanks, the fire department said.

It was not until 5:48 p.m. that the firefighters declared the fire under control. A firefighter was also slightly injured, the statement said.

Speaking at the scene Thursday afternoon, Acting Fire Chief Paul Hutt said crews were vacuuming up any contaminated water draining from the blaze and taking air quality samples.

“I want to make sure the residents aren’t worried. We have our Hazardous Materials team on site. We navigate and mitigate any risk,” Hutt said.

“There is no concern for the residents. There is no need to evacuate.”

The Department of the Environment is also on site to help with operations. Merivale had been closed between West Hunt Club and Macfarlane roads, but is now reopened.

Explosion and major fire in southern Ottawa sends 3 people to hospital

No danger to residents as Merivale Road fire continues to burn, fire chief says

Acting Ottawa Fire Services Chief Paul Hutt said officials were taking action to keep the area clean and safe for residents as they continue to fight the blaze on Merivale Road, which remains closed to traffic. 0:59

‘It was scary’

Mario Mainville, who works nearby at Freedom Harley-Davidson, described hearing a dozen “booms” coming from the building.

“Now we see a big white smoke. We saw the building collapse,” he said about an hour after the explosion was reported.

When Renée Burwell walked out of a nearby Canadian Tire where she had been shopping, she noticed a giant “wall of smoke” in the distance.

As she walked past, she stopped and quickly filmed footage on her phone.

“I was scared, I was anxious, I was worried,” she said. “I was really worried if there were people inside and if someone was hurt. I really wanted them to. [extinguish] fire. It was scary.”

WATCH: A witness describes the scene near the Merivale Road fire:

Explosion and major fire in southern Ottawa sends 3 people to hospital

Witness describes scene near Merivale Road fire

Renée Burwell says she saw a smoke tower after leaving a nearby Canadian Tire store. 0:43

First responders seemed to get the situation under control quickly, said Jesse Headland, a gas station attendant who works in front of the fire site.

Like other witnesses, Headland said he heard a loud bang, followed by a cloud of smoke and a “significant amount of flames”.

“I have been at this station for nine years and it is probably the worst thing that has ever happened in this region,” he said.

Explosion and major fire in southern Ottawa sends 3 people to hospital
Woodvale Pentacostal Church serves as a “family reunification center” following a fire and explosion at a truck manufacturer in south Ottawa on January 13, 2022. (Guy Quenneville / CBC)

The blaze is under investigation by Ottawa Police and Firefighters, the Ontario Ministry of Labor and the Office of the Fire Marshal.

No official cause has been announced.