Firefighters from Station #20 Wheatley, Station #19 Tilbury and Station #1 Chatham responded to a gas leak and explosion at 15 Erie Street North Wheatley on the evening of August 26, 2021. The aftermath and impact of that event have had a seismic effect on the local and wider community and brought untold disruption to families and businesses in that area. Over the past months, nearly every firefighter in Chatham-Kent has been on scene around the clock to maintain a presence and ensure the safety of the community alongside engineers, paramedics, and police officers.
There have been many updates as to the work taking place to locate the source of the gas that lead to the explosion and the work to plug abandoned wells in the area with firefighters being on scene with the continued event for the last 294 days. The emergency phase of this incident opened last year and will be closed at 19:00 hours this evening by Station Chief Greg Hodgson and the firefighters of Wheatley. Chief Hodgson and his team have been on the front line of dealing with this situation for over a year, in addition to continuing to fight fires in homes, attend accidents, medical calls, and other emergencies to protect their community, they have attended 93 additional emergencies during this time.
Safety advisors have worked in the background to calculate the risks and reduce the evacuation zone accordingly with two such reductions in previous months. The fact that wells have been capped and equipment remains on scene to manage any releases facilitates these small contributions to normality as the community begins the process of recovery and healing. Advisors have now reviewed the systems in place and have guided us that the firefighters no longer need to be present at the site 24/7, they will be on-site when work is taking place to deal with any situations that may arise, outside of these hours police, security and the industry hazardous materials technicians will be present to keep the scene safe and secure.
The incident is not over, this is another cautious step to provide reassurance and response to the Community. You will continue to see firefighters in the area and the team at Station #20 Wheatley remain available as they always are to leave their beds, homes, jobs, and family meals when their pagers go off to get to the station and respond as quickly as they can to protect their community.
"I want to take this moment to recognize the work of everyone who is collaborating and striving to bring stability to the town of Wheatley," explains Chief Chris Case. "But I am compelled to recognize and be humbled by the dedication and commitment from all the firefighters, officers, fire dispatchers, and chiefs of Chatham-Kent who have answered the call to be present and ready to deal with threat, supported by our case workers, economic development officers and a team of municipal volunteers."