Sunrise Propane Explosion

Sunrise Propane Explosion

August 4, 2010 

After a thorough and technically complex investigation, the Office of the Fire Marshal (OFM) has determined the cause of the propane explosion that occurred at 54 Murray Road, Toronto on August 10th, 2008.

The cause has been identified as a propane leak that resulted from a hose failure during a “tank-to-tank” transfer from one cargo truck to another. The ignition source has not been determined.

Over the course of the lengthy investigation, investigators were faced with many challenges, including asbestos at the scene of the explosion, the decommissioning of thousands of propane tanks at the scene to ensure community and scene safety, and extensive exhibit testing by the OFM.

Recommendations stemming from the OFM's investigation will be sent to the Propane Advisory Team. The Propane Advisory Team was created by the Office of the Fire Marshal and is comprised of government and agency representatives, propane industry and fire service members to identify regulatory issues and resolve industry and fire department challenges as a result of fire service requirements contained in O. Reg. 440/08 (Propane Storage and Handling).

The recommendations will be shared with the Team to help develop strategies for implementing the recommendations and to prevent similar events from happening in the future.

The OFM will provide a redacted copy of the report, which is very technical in nature, upon request and will be releasing an executive summary outlining key findings of its investigation shortly.

Sixteen OFM staff participated including fire investigators, supervisors, forensic fire protection engineers, coordinators and fire protection specialists.

Throughout the investigation the team worked closely with the Office of the Chief Coroner, Toronto Police Service, Toronto Fire and Emergency Services, City of Toronto Facilities Management, Technical Standards and Safety Authority, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of the Environment.


“This incident had a major impact on the community,” said Ontario Fire Marshal Pat Burke. “Two people died, thousands were evacuated and property damage and clean up costs were extensive. It is hoped the OFM's investigation can contribute to preventing similar incidents from ever happening again.”


  • Gina Pontikas, Office of the Fire Marshal, 416-325-3155

Sunrise Propane Explosion Investigation Backgrounder

August 4, 2010

OFM Fire Investigation

On August 10, 2008 a series of explosions occurred at Sunrise Propane, 54 Murray Rd, Toronto. Emergency Services quickly attended the scene to begin mitigating the damage and as a precaution, thousands of people were temporarily evacuated.

A District Chief of Toronto Fire Services died of a heart attack at the scene.

The Office of the Fire Marshal (OFM) commenced its investigation on August 10, 2008. On August 11 a multi-jurisdictional investigation was launched that included the OFM, Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA), Ministry of Labour and Ministry of the Environment, as well as Toronto Police and Fire Services.

A deceased person was found at the scene, at which time the Office of the Chief Coroner joined the investigative team assembled at the site. The deceased person was later identified as an employee of Sunrise Propane.

The OFM conducted an investigation into the origin, cause and circumstances of the explosion and fatality. The investigation employed scientific methods which includes systematic scene examination protocols established through the National Fire Protection Association and the OFM.

Sixteen OFM staff participated in the investigation, including fire investigators, supervisors, forensic fire protection engineers, coordinators and fire protection specialists.

The Office of the Fire Marshal released the scene on September 22, 2008.

Damage to the Sunrise Propane site and the surrounding area was extensive, resulting in substantial clean up costs.

Investigation Challenges

Investigators encountered numerous challenges during a lengthy and technically complex investigation.

In the early stages, the OFM Fire Investigation Services team experienced difficulties accessing the area of origin because asbestos was found throughout the area of the explosion. The area was cleaned, block by block, to ensure the safety of everyone at the scene.

The mid-summer weather also proved taxing. As standard practice, the investigative team wore personal protective equipment (PPE) when working on the scene. Due to very high temperatures, the team could only work for 1/2 to 1 hour before they had to exit the scene to have their vital signs monitored and be checked for dehydration. A new set of PPE was donned by each member of the investigative team before re-entering the scene. OFM fire investigators wear some form of PPE at every fire scene they attend and investigate. The safety of the OFM investigative team at the scene and of the public was of paramount concern.

All reasonable steps were taken to remove any fire and explosion hazards and this involved the decommissioning of thousands of propane cylinders.

Heavy equipment excavators carefully removed large pieces of debris at the scene for examination. Investigators documented the location of each piece and took photographs. This was a very time-consuming process. There was extensive testing of items removed from the scene, some of which was conducted out-of-country. The only laboratory in North America with the capability to perform the types of tests required was in Texas. Given the number of these items, the process of examining them took considerable time.

Other time-consuming challenges included computer gas dispersion modeling conducted by OFM Fire Protection Engineering staff, forensic analysis of security video footage of the explosion and extensive interviews of witnesses.

For more information:

  • Gina Pontikas, Office of the Fire Marshal, 416-325-3155