1970 explosion rocks town

After putting in a full days work at the Mesachie Lake Forestry Research Station, life time local resident Trevor Green

After putting in a full days work at the Mesachie Lake Forestry Research Station, life time local resident Trevor Green returned to his home at Greendale and to the news that a “calamity, if not a tragedy, had overtaken the village earlier that day”.

He learned that at approximately 8:20 AM (January 22, 1970), a terrific explosion had taken place at the nearby Island Shake and Shingle mill dry kiln building. The explosion had taken the life of one man and had “seriously injured” others.  Trevor’s feelings of sympathy were for the injured and  “the widow and four children of the young man who was killed”.

The concussion and sound of the explosion could be felt and heard for miles around. Moments after the big blast the village fire alarm sounded confirming everyone’s thoughts that something serious had just taken place. The fire department rushed to the scene and although very little could be done amid the chaos of burning rubble and smoke, they remained and did what they could over the next several hours.

According to information given to Trevor, it was thought that a valve, or valves that controlled the kilns propane source had been inadvertently left open overnight. The next morning upon arriving at work one of the employees lit a match. The explosion that occurred at that moment was instantaneous. It caused the immediate disintegration of the dry kiln and the huge breezeblock building it was located in. The debris, which was made up of shattered cement blocks, shakes, shingles, metal roofing, equipment etc., was hurled into the air in all directions landing helter skelter. The scene was of total destruction.

Trevor’s teenaged son Tony “witnessed some of it” from the high school where he had been leaning against a large plate glass window that looked westward toward the direction of the mill. At the moment of impact, the window crashed inwards from the concussion but fortunately neither Tony nor any of the other students were seriously hurt. From that vantage point, he could see flames and objects flinging skyward. Many other windows in the vicinity were shattered or cracked and much rubble and litter was tossed tremendous distances.

Long ago the same area, then known as Siwash Bay, was used as a “load out” where logs were held along the lakeshore then loaded onto rail cars and shipped out. The shake mill was one of the later occupants. Today, as one strolls along the pretty tree lined street to Point Ideal, it is hard to imagine that this was once a muddy unattractive area cluttered with railway tracks, trains, logs and other industrial equipment and materials.