After nearly a year, Chatham-Kent firefighters wrap 24/7 watch at Wheatley blast site

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The Aug. 26, 2021, explosion in Wheatley is shown in an screenshot from a security camera video. After nearly a year of being on the site day and night, Chatham-Kent firefighters will conclude their 24-7 watch of the area.  (Courtesy John Urban - image credit)
The Aug. 26, 2021, explosion in Wheatley is shown in an screenshot from a security camera video. After nearly a year of being on the site day and night, Chatham-Kent firefighters will conclude their 24-7 watch of the area. (Courtesy John Urban - image credit)

Chatham-Kent firefighters will conclude their 24/7 watch in Wheatley, Ont., the site of a blast that rocked the small community in August 2021.

In a press statement Thursday, the municipality commended their firefighters for keeping a constant watch and presence in the community for the last 294 days.

"The emergency phase of this incident opened last year and will be closed at 19:00 hours this evening by Station Chief Greg Hodgson and the firefighters of Wheatley," the municipality said in the statement.

Firefighters have been monitoring the small community for more than a year, when gas leaks were first detected before the explosion.

The team also responded to other emergencies over that period — 93 in total.

Chatham-Kent said safety advisors have been working to ensure the area is safe, and gas wells have been capped. Officials have advised the municipality that continuous presence of firefighters is no longer needed, however they will be on site as needed.

The municipality said the situation isn't over, but that this is one more step toward recovery.

"I want to take this moment to recognize the work of everyone who is collaborating and striving to bring stability to the town of Wheatley," Chief Chris Case said in the press release.

"But I am compelled to recognize and be humbled by the dedication and commitment of all the firefighters, officers, fire dispatchers, and chiefs of Chatham-Kent who have answered the call to be present and ready to deal with threats. As the community continues to recover, they can be reassured and wholly proud of their firefighters."

Last month, the downtown's main thoroughfare partially reopened and the evacuation zone has been reduced.

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