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West End Vancouver jolted by accidental car explosion

What is left of a car that exploded on Nicola Street near Robson Street in Vancouver on May 22, 2013.

Ben Nelms/The Globe and Mail

Fire officials used an early-morning explosion in Vancouver's West End to remind the public of the dangers of storing and transporting gas canisters – particularly as the summer barbecuing season approaches.

Two men suffered minor injuries on Wednesday morning when an open or leaking acetylene tank inside a vehicle parked in the 800-block of Nicola Street ignited, consuming the car in flames and damaging nearby apartment buildings up to 12 storeys high. The explosion could be heard from many blocks away.

Michel Hachey, the crestfallen owner of the Toyota Matrix, said he uses acetylene to solder pipes in his work as a plumber. He was walking toward his car at 6:50 a.m. when he triggered the remote ignition, which blew it up. He was not injured.

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"Even 10 feet closer," he said, trailing off. He added that he never imagined anything like this could happen.

The two men who were injured were driving by when the explosion occurred. They were taken to St. Paul's Hospital and treated for minor injuries caused by broken glass.

Zoran Kovacevic, who lives on the sixth floor of an apartment next to the parked car, said his "whole building moved." He woke up 10 minutes before the blast, which shattered his apartment windows. "I'm glad we had the curtains [closed]."

Vancouver Fire Captain Gabe Roder stressed the dangers of transporting any type of gas – "be it gasoline, propane or acetylene" – in the passenger compartment of a vehicle.

"When transporting these types of gases, transport them in a well-ventilated area, secured to the vehicle and away from any source of heat," he said.

Constable Brian Montague of the Vancouver Police Department said there are no plans to recommend charges against Mr. Hachey.

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Based in Vancouver, Andrea Woo is a general assignment reporter with a focus on multimedia journalism. More

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Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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