Port Metro Vancouver fire chemical could cause respiratory problems today

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The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority says smoke from the chemical fire at Port Metro Vancouver could cause respiratory problems today.

Early yesterday afternoon, a chemical fire broke out in containers at the Port’s Centerm Container Terminal affecting tens of thousands of people living in the Downtown Eastside and Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhoods. Southeasterly winds blew a large chemical smoke and gas cloud from the fire into residential neighbourhoods.

Fire officials issued a warning for residents to find shelter indoors and close their windows. Port operations on the south shore of Burrard Inlet were closed for the day.

A shelter order was not lifted until just after 6 p.m., but West Coast Express services were canceled throughout the evening rush hour.

As of this morning, City of Vancouver officials say the container fire is about one-third the size of yesterday’s fire and it is still smoking. Firefighters, including 30 crew members and three ladder trucks, are still at the scene focusing on air quality monitoring in the area for acceptable levels. There is no impact to commuters traveling to work or school this morning.

The Health Authority warns that symptoms from inhaling trichloroisocyanuric acid from the smoke cloud could take as long as 24 hours to appear. These symptoms include wheezing, difficulty breathing, coughing, skin and eye irritation.

Elderly people and young children are particularly at risk. Anyone experiencing symptoms should see a physician immediately.

The chemical is used as a chlorinating agent for swimming pools and can also be used for industrial purposes such as anti-shrink treatment for woolen and fabric bleaching.

The cause of the fire is not known, but officials with the Port and municipal government are expected to release an update later this morning.

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