‘Felt like … an earthquake’: House explodes in Winnipeg’s Transcona area

A neighbourhood in Winnipeg’s east side has been rocked by a home explosion that has destroyed at least one house and significantly damaged other structures.

A house on Camrose Bay, off of Coldstream Avenue, exploded around 11:15 a.m. Wednesday in Transcona, the City of Winnipeg posted.

“We’ve had a significant catastrophic explosion of a residence … with damage to adjacent homes and structures,” Scott Wilkinson, Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service deputy chief of fire rescue operations, told reporters near the scene.

Members of the fire department and Winnipeg police are still working to locate the people who live in the home that was destroyed, he said. They don’t know if anyone was home at the time.

A column of black smoke in the distance from a fire
A column of dark smoke fills the air in Transcona on Wednesday following a house explosion. (Submitted by Nancy Schroeder)

All that’s left of the house that exploded is a concrete foundation that firefighters poured water into as smoke rose out of the hole.

There are no reports of injuries to anyone in the neighbouring homes but several are too damaged to allow people to return to live in them. The city will work with those people to support them in whatever way it can, Wilkinson said.

The damaged structures include some across the street from the one that exploded as well as to the rear and to both sides.

Debris from the explosion is scattered around the area, littering rooftops of neighbouring houses.

Water from a fire hose is sprayed onto a house foundation.
Fire crews spray water onto the foundation of the home that exploded. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

Karl Lent lives immediately next door to the house that exploded. His roof appeared to be burning at one point and curtains flapped from blown-out windows.

Lent was in his garage when the explosion happened.

“Felt like … an earthquake. The man door blew open, stuff was blowing in, I was blown over,” he said.

As he dusted himself off and got up, a second explosion knocked him back down.

“Stuff was just flying all over the place. Never seen nothing like that,” he said. “I thought my barbecue blew up, which is right outside my garage door.”

Two houses are seen from the street
The house that exploded is seen to the left in this Google Street View image from 2015. Karl Lent’s house is to the right. (Google Street View)

Lent, who has lived in his home for 27 years, said he doesn’t know the older man whose home exploded. The man lived there with a younger woman, who Lent thinks was his daughter.

Lent isn’t sure if anyone was home.

“I seen him leave this morning, but he comes and goes. I don’t know if he came back home, ’cause I was in the garage.”

He hasn’t been able to return to his home to see the extent of damage it suffered.

“The back corner of the house is apparently gone,” he said. “What do I do next? Where do I go?”

Fires trucks stand on a watery street
Fire trucks and hoses line the street where a home exploded on Wednesday. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

Few houses had to be evacuated, Deputy Chief Wilkinson said — most people have been able to shelter in place as crews work to extinguish the fires.

It is far too early to speculate on the cause of the explosion, he said, adding he was not aware of any construction happening in the area.

“We don’t have any risks to the community, beyond this, that we’re aware of at this time,” Wilkinson said.

The public is urged to avoid the area to allow emergency crews to manage the scene safely.

The city’s incident response listed 19 emergency units at the scene, including fire and rescue.