No one was home when house exploded in Winnipeg, police say

The father and daughter who lived in the house that exploded in Winnipeg on Wednesday were not inside at the time and have been found safe, police say.

But answers about what caused the catastrophic explosion that rained down debris on a neighbourhood in Transcona could still be weeks or months away — and no causes have been ruled out, Winnipeg Police Service spokesperson Const. Jason Michalyshen said.

“Obviously we’re 24 hours into this investigation — very, very early stages,” he told reporters on a street near the explosion site on Thursday.

“We’re doing everything in our power to determine what was the cause. Houses don’t just explode. There is a reason for it, and what that reason is is yet to be determined.”

When asked about the occupants’ reaction to learning their home had been destroyed, Michalyshen said he didn’t have “an exact quote to provide” but he thinks “it’s pretty safe to say, what would any of our reaction be to something like this? And I think it would be very upsetting.”

Police are speaking with the people who lived in the house as part of the investigation and also want to speak with anyone who saw or heard anything that might help determine what happened.

“Through any investigation, we’re going to look at any and all potential cause of this fire. Are we looking at gas or electrical? Are we looking at any other factors, potentially?” he said.

Water from a fire hose is sprayed onto a house foundation.
Fire crews spray water onto the the foundation of the home that exploded in Winnipeg’s Transcona area on Wednesday. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

“But we’re not going to jump to conclusions. We’re not going to speculate at this point. We’re going to just be very open-minded and respectful to the entire scene and everyone directly involved and take it from there.”

Crews were called to Camrose Bay around 11:15 a.m. Wednesday, after a blast reduced one house to just parts of its foundation and significantly damaged several others around it.

While there were no reports of injuries to anyone in the neighbouring homes, several were too damaged for people to return to live in them, Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service Deputy Chief Scott Wilkinson said that day.

WATCH | 1 home destroyed, others damaged as explosion rocks Winnipeg neighbourhood:

1 home destroyed, others damaged as explosion rocks Winnipeg neighbourhood

19 hours ago

Duration 1:28

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.

Few houses had to be evacuated, he said, with most people sheltering in place as crews worked to put out the fires that had started as a result of the explosion.

The fire paramedic service’s accelerant detection dog was also on scene helping investigators.

‘I want answers. I’m angry’

Neighbours said they saw the man whose house exploded get home early Wednesday evening and get put in a police cruiser car.

Brynn Lariviere, who described the man from next door as a nice, quiet guy who keeps to himself, said she saw the police car take off with him about half an hour later.

There is a pile of rubble in a yard where a house used to be after it exploded.
Winnipeg fire crews finished putting out fires in the Transcona neighbourhood after a home exploded Wednesday morning. (Submitted by Scott Potter)

While she and her family are grateful no one was injured, she said she wants to know who or what was responsible for the explosion that left their home with broken windows, fire damage and what look like “little bullet holes everywhere.”

“I want answers. I’m angry,” she said. Her family still feel like they’re “in shock.” 

Three people stand together in front of a destroyed house.
Brynn Lariviere, along with her dad Ray and stepmom Maryann, said they’re grateful no one was hurt when their next-door neighbour’s house exploded, but they want answers about what caused the blast. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

“It kind of feels like just a nightmare, and when is it going to stop? And [like] I’m going to wake up tomorrow and everything’s going to be back to normal. But that’s just not the case.”

Her dad, Ray Lariviere, said he was up north in Clearwater Lake with no cell service on the day of the blast, so he didn’t find out what happened until later that evening. He raced home, getting back around 1 a.m. Thursday morning to find his house is uninhabitable.

“How do you put it in words?” he said. “All our hard work’s down the crapper, for one.”

Now he and his wife, Maryann Lariviere, said they’re staying in a hotel and looking for a temporary home for them and their three adult children.

“We’ve got to live. We’ve got to find a place. We need clothes, we need — hell, I need a toothbrush,” he said. “What can you do? Just keep going.”

Police spokesperson Michalyshen said the investigation into the cause of the explosion is continuing in collaboration with the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service fire investigations branch, the bomb unit and the forensic identification section.

A damaged house next to a pile of rubble. Firefighters work nearby.
The Lariviere family’s home was significantly damaged by the explosion in the house next door. (Submitted by Brynn Lariviere)

The debris field from the blast potentially reaches blocks away from the explosion site, he said. Anyone who finds anything in their yard that appears to be related is asked to call the police major crimes unit at 204-986-6219.

There is no concern for public safety in the area, said Michalyshen, who also cautioned people against flying drones above the scene while crews are working.