Skip to content

Things that go boom in the night, or during the day

I was scanning the news a few days ago when a headline piqued my curiosity. It said, “Police chief says houses don’t just blow up.

I was scanning the news a few days ago when a headline piqued my curiosity. It said, “Police chief says houses don’t just blow up.” That statement sounds reasonable and seemed rather obvious but why was it considered news?

I read the article and on June 26 at around 11:19 am, a house in Winnipeg blew up in a rather spectacular fashion. It was completely destroyed and all that was left was its foundation and some bits and pieces of burning debris. The house had been sitting there in the residential neighbourhood for years and then in the blink of an eye it was no more. Luckily, no one was in the house and while a few neighbouring houses were damaged and, again, no one was seriously injured, just badly shaken up. It reminded me of an old skit on SCTV with John Candy and Joe Flaherty who used to say “It blowed up. Blowed up real good.” Indeed, it did. The police chief went on to say that houses don’t blow up for no reason and they were going to find out the reason.

Now years ago, when I was a kid, I can never remember a house blowing up. A few house fires, sure, but a monster explosion? No. Now it seems to be on the news that a house somewhere suddenly explodes. I did a little research, and it seems to be a trend and in North America every week or two, another house blows up and some of the explosions are truly incredible and severely damage the houses around it.

In the USA, which seems to keep much better statistics than we do, since 2010 they recorded 3,138 significant natural gas pipeline leaks with 390 explosions; 725 people were injured and 163 people were killed. Many also occurred in Canada, some really big ones and a whole lot of smaller ones. If you remember, two houses in Yellowknife last winter had small explosions and fires caused by propane leaks.

I am not sure when it was decided that piping flammable, volatile and explosive gases all over the place and into people's homes was a good idea but that is when houses started to explode. In the statistics for suicides, criminal offences and homeowners playing around with their systems, they wouldn’t be included because they weren’t the natural gas company’s fault. So, the statistics don’t really tell the whole story. Also, if the house next to you goes kaboom, that could really damage your home.

A few of the explosions were put down to homeowners mucking around with their system because some people try to put in their own pipes to bypass the meter and drastically cut down on their heating bill, even though they drastically increase the chances of causing major explosions.

Also consider this: in the North, people often have propane barbecues, spare propane bottles to take to their cabins as well as containers of boat and snowmobile gas. In effect, they're surrounding themselves with flammable and explosive products which could go off if a fire got started. Remember the tales of people fleeing a forest fire and talking about hearing propane tanks exploding? So just look around the city at all the big propane vessels people have installed as they switch over to propane furnaces and on-demand water heaters. They're great things until there is an accident or malfunction of some sort.

Add to this the fact that many new buildings are far more flammable than the older buildings. The governments are responsible for building codes, but they don’t seem to take this into account. And that is not the way to go, buildings should be getting safer, not more dangerous.

As for the house in Winnipeg, it blowed up. Blowed up real good, and as the police chief said, there has to be a reason.