Premier Ford tours Wheatley explosion area, says residents 'deserve answers'

·2 min read
Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Tuesday visited downtown Wheatley, where an explosion destroyed two buildings on Aug. 26. (Government of Ontario - image credit)
Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Tuesday visited downtown Wheatley, where an explosion destroyed two buildings on Aug. 26. (Government of Ontario - image credit)

Ontario Premier Doug Ford toured Wheatley, Ont., on Tuesday, more than three weeks after an explosion destroyed two buildings and injured 20 people.

Ford and Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford visited the area of the downtown explosion and met with Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff, fire department Chief Chris Case and other municipal leaders, Ford's office said in a statement on Tuesday.

"We want the families and business that have been affected by this incident to know that our government has their backs," Ford and Rickford said in a joint statement.

"The people of Wheatley deserve answers, and we are continuing to provide technical support and funding to the municipality of Chatham-Kent as they investigate the source of the explosion and recover from this devastating event."

'He wanted to listen'

Canniff said Ford vowed to do whatever he could to help. The municipality pushed for financial support for displaced residents and for a timely resolution to the situation.

"When he came down, he wanted to listen," he said.

Kimberley Grant, treasurer for the Wheatley BIA, was among those in attendance for the premier's visit.

"It was fabulous, it was a really good response," she said. "We were telling him, we don't need your sympathy, we need your dollars," she said.

Grant is one of the chairs of the Wheatley disaster relief fund. She said the group has raised $76,000 following the explosion to help those displaced with needs such as food and clothing.

"These people had to leave their homes with basically the shirts on their back," she said.

More than 100 people were displaced following the Aug. 26 explosion and there is no timeline for when they can return to their homes and businesses.

The cause of the blast remains under investigation, though a hydrogen sulphide gas leak was detected prior to the incident. The blast has sparked concern over the thousands of abandoned gas wells across Ontario.

Government of Ontario
Government of Ontario

The toxic, flammable gas was also detected twice earlier in the summer, prompting a state of emergency.

Ford's visit to Wheatley was not publicly announced and there was no media availability.

On Monday, the municipality of Chatham-Kent announced it had reached an agreement with the Ministry of Natural Resources for the province take the lead on the investigation.

The province has hired a consulting firm to do technical analysis and is funding gas monitoring efforts in the area. Ford and Rickford said the government will continue to work with the experts and "support the municipality any way we can."

Rickford has not made himself available since the explosion, despite multiple interview requests.

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