Fire Fighting in Canada

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Officials brace for tragic day following fire

March 28, 2011, Woodstock, Ont. - Police in Woodstock, Ont., say they are bracing for a "tragic day'' as two people remain unaccounted for following a fire and explosion in an apartment building.

March 28, 2011
By The Canadian Press

"Given that 24 hours has passed and that our investigators have been able to locate a number of other people from that building, I
think we should be prepared for what could be a difficult day,'' said Woodstock police Chief Rod Freeman.

Freeman says officials have located five of seven people who had been missing after Sunday's explosion reduced the building in the southwestern Ontario community to a pile of bricks and charred wood.

Seven people, including a firefighter, were injured in the blaze but have since been released from hospital. One person was held overnight.

Police have opened some local streets and the Ontario Fire Marshal's Office is on the scene trying to determine the cause of the blast. Freeman said engineers will survey the damage and decide if it's safe to go inside.

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If they can shore up some of the unstable walls, the search and rescue team will enter the building later in the day.

"Everyone is waiting to find out what the cause of this explosion was, so we're anxious to get in there,'' Freeman told reporters Monday morning.

"We have absolutely no indication at this point that any criminality is involved in this explosion,'' he added.

Freeman said there are 45 units in the building and about 100 residents have been displaced. Some are being put up at a local hotel.

"This is the last event that anybody expected would occur in our city,'' Freeman said. "I don't think any community expects this kind of thing. But our emergency responders were all heroic in their response. They prevented what could have been a much greater tragedy.''

Firefighter Don Brooks broke his leg during the initial response, but police say he was not admitted to hospital and is doing well.