‘A violent explosion’: RCMP to provide update on Sherwood Park fire investigation

Strathcona County RCMP are expected to provide an update this morning on their investigation into a fire — and reports of an explosion — inside a Sherwood Park community centre. 

Emergency crews and tactical units swarmed the Strathcona County Community Centre on Tuesday night after a fire broke out inside the building. 

Witnesses reported hearing an explosion around 8 p.m. A nearby seniors home was evacuated and road blockades were erected in the area. 

Throughout the night, heavily-armed officers could be seen moving in and out of the community centre complex, which houses the county’s council chambers as well as the library, meeting rooms and outdoor plazas.

On Wednesday, all entrances to the building remained blocked off by police. St. Theresa school and Salisbury Composite High School also remained closed for the day.

RCMP Superintendent Dave Kalist, director of Emergency Services Chief Jeff Hutton and Mayor Rod Frank are all expected to speak at a 11:30 a.m. news conference

CBC News will livestream the news conference live here. 

An RCMP officer on scene told CBC News there are no active evacuations in place. The officer said police are focused on keeping people away from the parkade underneath the library. 

A man named Jim, who asked that his name be kept anonymous, was at an AA meeting on the main floor of the library when the entire building began shaking.

There was an angry rattle from the parking garage below.

“I hunt and I’ve been around fire alarms my whole life, and I’m aware of what loud bangs and booms are,” he said “This was a violent explosion. It shook the building. The boom lasted seconds.

“The concrete under our feet shook. Our chairs shook.”

Chelsea Thoen describes the ‘huge bang’ she heard from Strathcona County Community Centre on Tuesday night. 0:31

As the fire alarms began wailing, Jim, his partner and their group went outside to the parking lot where emergency vehicles had begun to arrive.

Jim wanted to retrieve his vehicle from the parkade. He walked down the entrance ramp and walked through the overhead door which was jammed wide open.

“As we walked around the corner, the lights were still on down there but there was a hue in the air,” he said. “I’m not sure what it was. It didn’t smell like smoke and it left sort of an acidic taste in my mouth.

“My eyes burned. My throat burned.”

While police have not confirmed that any kind of blast occurred inside the building, Jim said he has no doubt there was an explosion.

“It was a large explosion. Nothing small about it,” he said.  “I hope everyone is OK … It’s a crazy world we live in.”

Police remained on the scene into Wednesday after a fire broke out inside the Strathcona County Community Centre in Sherwood Park. (CBC)





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Sherwood Park

Sherwood Park is a large hamlet in Alberta, Canada within Strathcona County that is recognized as an urban service area.[7] It is located adjacent to the City of Edmonton’s eastern boundary,[8] generally south of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Trail), west of Highway 21 and north of Highway 630 (Wye Road).[9] Other portions of Sherwood Park extend beyond Yellowhead Trail and Wye Road, while Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) separates Refinery Row to the west from the balance of the hamlet to the east.[9]

Sherwood Park was established in 1955 on farmland of the Smeltzer family, east of Edmonton. With a population of 70,618 in 2016,[6] Sherwood Park has enough people to be Alberta’s seventh largest city, but technically retains the status of a hamlet. The Government of Alberta recognizes the Sherwood Park Urban Service Area as equivalent to a city.

History

Sherwood Park, originally named Campbelltown, was founded by John Hook Campbell and John Mitchell in 1953 when the Municipal District of Strathcona No. 83 approved their proposed development of a bedroom community east of Edmonton. The first homes within the community were marketed to the public in 1955. Canada Post intervened on the name of Campbelltown due to the existence of several other communities in Canada within the same name, so the community’s name was changed to Sherwood Park in 1956.
Geography

The Sherwood Park Urban Service Area is located in the Edmonton Capital Region along the western edge of central Strathcona County adjacent to the City of Edmonton.[8] The majority of the community is bound by Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) to the north, Highway 21 to the east, Highway 630 (Wye Road) to the south, and Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) to the west. The Refinery Row portion of Sherwood Park is located across Anthony Henday Drive to the west, between Sherwood Park Freeway and Highway 16. Numerous developments fronting the south side of Wye Road, including Wye Gardens, Wye Crossing, Salisbury Village and the Estates of Sherwood Park, are also within the community. Lands north of Highway 16 and south of Township Road 534/Oldman Creek between Range Road 232 (Sherwood Drive) to the west and Highway 21 to the east are also within the Sherwood Park urban service area.

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