Item retrieval from Wheatley blast zone under review

An explosion in downtown Wheatley brings a building down to rubble and severely damages surrounding structures. (Photo credit: Kathryn Parent, Photography by Phos³ via Twitter)

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent is trying to figure out if people who had to leave their homes in the blast area in downtown Wheatley can return to check on their property and retrieve items.

Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire said the municipality will ask the Technical Advisory Group, which is completing a work plan over the next week or 10 days.

Shropshire said the evacuation zone remains the same for now and access is very limited because of safety concerns. The municipality noted that residents who were forced from their homes will be notified of any changes if they happen.

Golder, the engineering company hired by the province to find the source of the gas leak believed to have caused the explosion on August 26, 2021, will begin that work this week. The experts previously said that the investigation into the gas leak could take up to six months.

Mayor Darrin Canniff said time is of the essence and the investigation needs to get moving.

“I’m hoping it’s well short of that [6 months],” said Canniff. “Part of it is finding it but then when they find it and cap it, they’re going to have to decide at what point is it safe. The day they do it they can’t say well it’s safe come on back in. It’s that time frame afterwards. We’re depending on the experts here to determine the timelines.”

The province announced on Saturday that it will provide $2 million to help businesses affected by the blast. Businesses are being contacted by municipal staff to find out their needs.