With a loud whooshing sound, a fireball envelopes four firefighters, throwing one onto his back as they disappear behind a 20-foot-tall wall of searing orange flames.
A second later, the flames retreat and the firefighters emerge largely unscathed.
The dramatic explosion came as crews battled a blaze in a dust-collection hopper at the Woodworks furniture manufacturer – located at 2320 Peardonville Rd. in west Abbotsford – on Monday afternoon.
Dramatic video captured by News videographer Kevin Macdonald shows the moments leading up to a fireball that ultimately left the crew with just a minor ankle injury and some likely shaken nerves.
As seen in the video, four firefighters stand near the base of the large hopper in an outdoor corner alcove of a large warehouse, with one man standing nearly directly underneath, holding a lever allowing flaming dust to tumble out.
Flames lick downward, then up and around the hopper, coming in waves and growing in volume and intensity second by second.
When the momentary sun-like apparition recedes a second later, a firefighter who had been operating a hose from his knees is seen collecting himself and getting back to his feet off his back.
The explosion was caused by the ignition of concentrated dust particles emanating from the hopper, said assistant fire chief Ron Hull of Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service.
“It can be very dangerous,” he said. “It has a bit of a concussive feel to it.”
Hull said that there was an awareness of the risk of such a dust explosion happening leading up to it.
“When we’re working on those, we’re taking every precaution, we are aware of the hazards involved and we’re trying to mitigate [the risk of] these things occurring.”
The fire was extinguished around an hour after it was reported.
The fire is believed to have started in the dust extraction hopper from a spark coming from another piece of equipment. There was no damage to the main building but the hopper sustained significant damage.