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Heritage Site

Barry Building Explosion Heritage Site Plaque

Site P22:
Barry Building Explosion Heritage Site Plaque
128 McIntyre Street West
Evaluation Score:

On this site in 1975, an accident that occurred during a routine excavation led to the largest tragedy in North Bay's history.  In the afternoon of January 8, a crew from the gas company working next door used a backhoe to pull up a charged natural gas line connected to a recently demolished house and accidentally severed the line.

At 3:30 p.m., a violent explosion tore through the Barry Building as the natural gas ignited, lifting the building's roof five feet into the air. Within a minute, a raging fire had erupted, complicating rescue efforts.

It took an hour and a half for the natural gas to be shut off and the fire to be brought under control. During this time, countless police officers and many heroic private citizens selflessly charged into the rubble to help. Those injured were taken across the street to Cochrane Dunlop Hardware for triage, despite the store having had its front plate glass window blown out by the blast.

The fire immediately claimed the lives of eight people and one other several weeks later in hospital. The community members who died as a result of the explosion were: Elsie Brooks; Louise Brousseau; (Dr.) James Cobean; Elizabeth Hall; LaJuana Hallauer; (Dr.) Garnet Julian; Gertrude Larocque; Mary Margaret MacDonald; and Sarah Murdoch. Another twenty-three people were injured, several of them severely. This tragedy led to several investigations, a coroner's inquest and recommendations to change provincial procedures regarding natural gas detection.