Video (language warning)
As well, Highway 401 was reopening and expected to be back to normal by this morning. OPP shut down a lengthy stretch of Canada's busiest freeway, which runs just a block or two from Sunrise Propane.
Acting Fire Chief Roy Law told reporters last night that after more than 16 hours of battling a series of blasts at the propane plant that the blaze is now under control.
Officials from the Ontario fire marshal's office are expected to begin sifting through the remains today to try to determine what set off the blaze which created an enormous, mushroom shaped fireball about 3:20 a.m. -- a blast so powerful it blew out windows and literally shook hundreds of residents from their beds.
As a precaution, anyone living with a 1.6-kilometre radius of the blast was urged to get out and, with just a couple of exceptions, they did.
Police said last night they would accompany residents back to their homes.
Electricity has been restored to most streets in the area but emergency officials said that natural gas service, which had been shut off as a safety precaution, could take days to restore.
Police also reported some looting at a shopping centre in the evacuation zone and were beefing up their presence overnight to discourage more looting.
Meanwhile, District Chief Bob Leek was named as the firefighter who died while on duty at the blast. He was a 25-year veteran of the service.
It was not immediately clear whether the death was related to the explosions or from a medical condition. David Sheen, a division chief, said one of the firefighter's colleagues found the firefighter had collapsed on the ground and called for help.
"It wasn't traumatic circumstances," said Sheen.
"It was just in the course of him performing some operations that he went down," he added.
"It's hard. All of our guys are having a rough time of it," said an emotional Sheen.
An employee of the propane company is also unaccounted for. There were reports he was seen running toward one of the initial blasts.
Ontario Fire Marshal Pat Burke told reporters last night he cannot speculate on what touched off the enormous fireball.
"It's too early to say what caused it," he said. "We have to get in there and we won't do that until it's entirely stabilized."
Also speaking last night, Minister of Community Safety Minister Rick Bartolucci said that even though thousands who live within a 1.6-kilometres radius of the explosion were told by local emergency authorities to leave their homes, it was not a mandatory evacuation order.
That, he said, can only be issued by the province.
But he said he was heartened by what he called the "incredible compliance" of residents to heed warnings and leave.
One large shopping mall was also evacuated.
"Our windows blew. Everything blew out. Doors were blown open. Our door handles actually came off. Light fixtures had fallen. We had glass all over our staircase," resident Vicki Arciero said. "It was like a nuclear explosion."
She said her family took shelter in their basement, just three doors away from Sunrise Propane facility, until emergency services workers came to help them evacuate the area.
"I thought it was an earthquake with the noise and the way my building shook," said freelance photographer Sarah Millar.
Stefano Valente was working his night shift at a grocery store when the blast occurred.
"The store started shaking like crazy," he said. "Windows were flopping in and out like they were rubber. Stuff was falling from the ceiling like snow. Things were falling from the shelves, a couple of us fell. It was the most intense thing I've ever experienced."
Valente ran from the store and saw a big mushroom cloud that "reeked," he said.
Division Commander Bob O'Hallarn of Toronto Fire Services said damage to homes and businesses in the area is still being assessed.
"I saw homes with very heavy damage, but I would not classify it as completely destroyed. I've seen [homes] from explosions before where it's nothing but a pile of rubble. I didn't see any of that here," he said.
Summary - on the night of August 10th, 2008 (Sunday) an fire started in a propane plant in Toronto. It reached the propane tanks and blossomed into an explosion with a 1.6 kilometer radius. So far, one firefighter and one employee of the propane company have been announced missing, although damage to surrounding buildings is extensive. The cause of the fire is unknown at this time.
My friend was in Toronto when this happened. I have yet to talk to him about it though.