Chemical fire at Vancouver’s port prompts evacuation, health warnings

VANCOUVER — Sections of Vancouver’s port were evacuated Wednesday afternoon and nearby streets were shut down due to a chemical fire at a container terminal in the city’s downtown.

Vancouver’s fire department said at least eight fire trucks and more than two dozen firefighters responded to what was called in as a container fire. Firefighters trained to deal with hazardous materials were on the scene.

A large cloud of white smoke could be seen lifting off a collection of multicoloured shipping containers. Streams of water blasted from fire hoses into the smoke, which obscured any sign of the fire itself.

The city’s health authority confirmed the fire involved a substance called trichloroisocyanuric acid, which can be harmful if inhaled in large quantities.

Vancouver Coastal Health spokeswoman Anna Marie D’Angelo said people in the area should close their windows and remain indoors, particularly if they can smell it.

She said hospital emergency departments were on standby but by late afternoon there were no reported injuries.

A listing on a federal government website says trichloroisocyanuric acid is used in dry household bleaches, dishwashing compounds, swimming pool disinfectant and other cleaning agents.

Port Metro Vancouver spokesman John Parker-Jervis said the fire was located in the Centerm container terminal, which was shut down and evacuated.

Eric Chibana who works in the neighbourhood said he can smell the smoke inside his building and at first it smelled liked rubber but then changed. He said the air is hazy outside.

“You know, you can barely make out the vehicle across the street,” he said.

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