• Hunter Cresswell

Fuel-soaked soil near Wakefield erupts in flames

About 18,000 litres spilled in Dec. 7 gas tanker crash

A fire near Wakefield last week left quite an impression on La Pêche Fire Department Capt. Étienne Robertson.

For the second time in five days, his department responded to an incident near the intersection of Hwy 5 and Chemin Maclaren. That’s where a 10-wheel gas tanker crashed on the morning of Dec. 7. No one reported injuries in the crash, but the truck spilled its contents onto the ground. Then, around 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 11, Robertson and his firefighters donned their gear and returned to the area where the crash occurred after fire erupted from the gas-soaked ground during a clean-up operation.

La Pêche Fire Department firefighters Maxime Groulx and Francis Cousineau team-up to hose down fuel-soaked ground near the intersection of Hwy 5 and Chemin Maclaren in Wakefield after an excavator’s blade, which was removing decontaminated dirt following a Dec. 7 gas tanker crash, nicked a rock and sparked a blaze on Dec. 11. Hunter Cresswell photo

“We’re talking about 18,000 litres of diesel mixed with gasoline,” Robertson said about the spill. “Obviously there was still fuel left in the ground; I was surprised by the amount in the ground and the depth of it too.”

It took firefighters about a half hour to knock down the initial hot spots, but each time a fire hose was redirected from one flare up to another, the first spot would start burning again — despite the firefighters using water mixed with a special foam that helps prevent flare-ups. It took the firefighters about two hours until the ground was fully doused before the flames were out.

The blaze was sparked by the blade of an excavator that nicked a rock, which caused a spark that ignited the fuel-soaked ground. This ignition sent a plume of black acrid smoke up in the air, which towered over Wakefield, Robertson explained. No injuries or damage was reported.

The excavator was there doing decontamination work, which started on Dec. 8 following the crash.

On Dec. 10 almost 20 vehicles were at the scene of the crash removing and trucking off dirt. The smell of gas hung thick in the air at the worksite during the work.

The clean-up is being coordinated by the Quebec Ministère de l’environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques, which didn’t respond to a request for comment on the incident and clean-up operation by the publishing deadline.

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