WorkSafeBC Home

Firefighter struck by debris from explosion in metal shipping container

Date of incident: December 2011
NI number: 2011116120216
Employer: Municipality with volunteer fire department

Two firefighters were fighting a fire at the site of a log home construction business. When the fire was almost extinguished, a metal shipping container exploded. Flying debris from the explosion struck one of the firefighters, who sustained fatal injuries.

Ignition of fuel vapour in enclosed metal shipping container:
Fuel vapour accumulated inside the enclosed shipping container and ignited, resulting in an explosion that blew the steel doors off.

Underlying factors
Hazard not recognized:
Gasoline-powered tools were stored in the shipping container. The firefighters did not recognize the small amount of fuel in these tools as a potential hazard.

No available training on hazard: There was no training available for: (a) fighting fires in and around shipping containers or (b) recognizing the potential for fuel vapour buildup and ignition in sealed enclosed spaces.

Shipping container next to combustible structure: Placing a shipping container next to a combustible structure can leave it susceptible to exposure to extreme temperature in the event that the combustible structure ignites.

Limited ventilation in shipping containers: Shipping containers are designed to be sealed except for small vent holes in the upper corners. When these containers are used for storage and are not modified to increase ventilation, a hazardous mixture of fuel vapour can remain in the container.

Hazard alert

Slide show

Safety Advisory Bulletin (Emergency Management BC)

Publication Date: Dec 2011 File type: PDF (584 KB) Asset type: Incident Investigation Report Summary NI number: 2011116120216