By Perry Lefko
It could take several months before investigators determine what caused the explosion that occurred early in the morning of Feb. 11 at a strip mall just north of Hurontario Street and Dundas Street and caused the shutdown of businesses and evacuation of residents who live above the stores.
“When we work these explosions, we’ve got to work from the furthest field out and move inward with the investigation,” Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services Chief Tim Beckett said at a media briefing on Feb. 16 at Fire Station 101.
“A number of things have to incur in terms of different testing pieces. We were able to get into the actual explosion building at ground zero and start to work through that investigation. In speaking with the Fire Marshall’s Office, they anticipate their on-site investigation will take them through Feb. 17, at which time they will take anything that is recovered and discovered and take it back for further analysis, work through their process and we can expect some time over the next few months for them to release the actual cause of what they have seen. We will not attempt to speculate on any type of cause until the Fire Marshall’s full investigation.”
Beckett, who was flanked by Sgt. Joshua Colley of Peel Regional Police and Ward 7 Councillor Nando Iannica, said 104 businesses and 24 residential units were directly impacted by the explosion. He added 58 residents were provided with shelter through the Region of Peel Social Services and the office of the Red Cross Emergency Management.
“This is a team effort,” Beckett said. “The praises aren’t for me. The praises are to the entire team that worked through the recovery phase and getting people back. It’s the hard work of the men and women have put together to make this happen.”
He added that the “good news” is that all three northbound lanes and one of the southbound lanes of Hurontario have been opened. He also said the business residents are starting to return to their units to assess some of the damage and repair what they can and prepared to open their businesses again. The residents who were placed in shelters are moving back into their units and getting heat again through fire emergency agencies and Enbridge Gas.
“This is a good day for us in terms of returning people back,” Beckett said.
Iannicca praised all of the emergency services’ personnel involved for their help in responding to the explosion and providing safety, help and temporary shelter.
“It was heartwarming to see all the resources that were on-site already, which I thought was marvelous,” he said. “Going forward, safety and the well-being of the people who have to work there and have to live there and the patrons that make use of those services (is essential),” he said. “That’s uppermost in our thoughts going forward as well.”
He said some of the plazas, such as the one in which the explosion occurred, are more than 60 years old and were built before there was a Condominium Act.
“The units are individually owned or rented, that means they are individually metered and serviced,” he said. “There is a little bit of concern over the last 60 to 70 years when arrangements may have been made in terms of servicing for all of the properties and making sure it’s all up to code and to the proper standards. I’ve got to commend our chief and our building officials who are on top of that.
“A block that looks like a conventional plaza may in fact have up to 20 owners or 20 renters. They all have their individual agreements…so they are dealing now with the insurance on their property. Let’s get people back to their normal routines. Let’s get Cooksville back, working and thriving and then those challenges will take time to sort out to see who is culpable, who is liable and the insurance, whether it’s the renters or owners. What combinations…we’ll deal with that after the fact.”
A meeting will take place on Feb. 27 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at T.L. Kennedy Secondary School, which is located next to the mall where the explosion occurred.
“We hope to reach out to the community and get things to normal as quickly as possible because we’re on to the recovery phase,” he said.
Peel Regional Police are asking anyone with information or dash cam video regarding this incident to contact investigators at 12 Division at 905-453-2121, ext.1233. Information may also be left anonymously by calling Peel Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or by visiting www.peelcrimestoppers.ca or by sending a text message to CRIMES (274637) with the word ‘PEEL’ and then your tip.
Perry Lefko photo