Monica sits in her kitchen grabbing a late dinner after a long day responding to 911 calls. She hasn’t eaten since noon and neither has she had a break since the tornado hit Pearson airport at 3:18 this afternoon then ripped through the northwest end of the city.
Until now, her mind was too preoccupied with handling emergencies to internalize the full impact of what happened today. Her nerves are still toying with her even as she sits physically depleted yet decidedly uninterested in the food lying in the plate before her.
The solemn face of Peter Mansbridge appears on the flat screen while the National’s familiar jingle hums along. Monica’s eyes glaze over through the summary of today’s international headlines. There is none. It’s as if the whole world outside the boundaries of the Greater Toronto Area no longer exists. In fact, none of it matters to her anymore. She picks up her fork and sifts through her organic vegan salad as she watches tonight’s update.
“…After 5 hours of intense burning and explosions at terminal 1, firefighters finally have the blaze under control. The area surrounding the E-gates are now clear of aircraft except for those still burning off the remainder of their jet fuel. The death toll is still rising as airport officials attempt to clean up the damage. At least 2600 people in or near the 5 airplanes that exploded are presumed dead. Their bodies will likely never be recovered…”
It’s past 10 o’clock, and the sky to the far southwest of Monica’s Yonge and Bishop Avenue condo is glowing orange. But it’s not the airport. The report continues.
“…Firefighters as far as Guelph have been called to the second blaze burning out of control at the Richview Transformer Station. They still have not managed to get close enough to the source due to intense heat and intermittent explosions. Adrienne Arsenault is on location.”
“As you can see Peter, I’m standing here wearing a gas mask at the northern entrance of West Deane Park with the Hydro One fire burning a good kilometre north of here. There is very little information flowing to us from the scene so we don’t know yet the extent of the damage. All we can tell from the massive twitter storm is that the Canadian Armed Forces are systematically evacuating anyone downwind from the blaze and within a 2 kilometre radius of the transformer station…”
Monica stares at the surreal images.
“…Enbridge has reportedly activated the emergency shut off valves on the entire Line 9 stretch from Dixie Road to Islington Avenue just in case the fire reaches the pipeline running directly under the station.”
The sound of a forkful of bean sprouts hits the kitchen floor. “Did she say pipeline?” Monica shouts.
She grabs her tablet and surfs to a webpage she had bookmarked in her days of the “Stop Line 9” campaign and sure enough, the same pipeline that runs right by her condo and the Finch subway station runs right under the transformer station. She lifts her eyes to the activity in the background of the newscast as Adrienne continues. Army truck after army truck drive by in what looks like a convoy of sand bags. They steer right into the park.
“What are they doing in the park? The fire is a kilometre north of there,” Monica mumbles to herself.
She remembers a previous fire at Richview and googles it. She skims the article: “…2011…2 transformers…flames…one hour highway closure…then another fire in 2007…”
Monica looks back up to the live report and frowns. “This is not the same kind of—”. A horrifying thought smacks her across the head.
She zooms into the 401/427 wedge on the Line 9 map and screams. “The creek is less than 400 metres away! Oh my Gaea! It’s not a transformer fire!”
…to be continued in DilBit Free.