toronto explosion under bridge

Toronto residents shaken after huge explosion at encampment under bridge

An explosion under a bridge is the talk of Toronto today after weekend shenanigans went from fun to terrifying in a flash for many people in the city's downtown core on Saturday night.

Emergency responders were called to the scene of a homeless encampment beneath the newly-renovated Bathurst Bridge at Bathurst Street and Fort York Boulevard around 11:15 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 26., after an apparent fireball had erupted in the area, which is dense with condo buildings.

Police reported at the time that a fire had broken out under the bridge, that there was heavy smoke in the area, and that there had been "reports of propane tanks exploding."

Bathurst was closed from Fort York to Front Street in both directions until about 6 a.m. the next morning.

After an investigation into the fire had been completed, City of Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg announced on Sunday that "there was a boiling liquid expanding vapour explosion (BLEVE) during the fire."

"The BLEVE occurred when a number of propane cylinders were exposed to the heat of the fire," said Pegg.

"When cylinders fail, there is a large fireball produced and numerous projectile hazards. Fortunately, there are no reported injuries as a result of last night's fire."

While no injuries were reported, many people were shaken up by what they had witnessed.

People in some of the many residential buildings within eyeshot of the bridge were spooked to see the site on fire, all the more so after they witnessed a fireball shoot out from underneath it.

Some noted that there had been people living beneath the bridge in an encampment, prompting further mass concern about potential injuries and the general safety of underhoused people in Toronto.

This is far from the first explosion of its kind to take place within Toronto encampments in recent years, with the western part of downtown Toronto near major thoroughfares particularly ripe for such incidents.

Charred propane tanks and widespread debris have been found at the scenes of many encampment fires, some of which have resulted in injuries and, in a few cases, even death.

The proliferation of encampment fires has become an increasingly urgent issue in Toronto over the past few years as more people than ever choose to live outdoors over unsafe and overcrowded shelters.

Toronto Fire crews put out at least nine fires at homeless encampments during one winter weekend alone at the height of the COVID pandemic, one of which involved a foam-based sleeping pod that burst into flames.

Lead photo by

Paige Leedale

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