Witnesses to a huge St. Boniface fire are describing an explosion, a fireball and a wave of intense heat.
Cassandra Brazil, 23, was sitting in a friend's car just 50 metres from the blaze when the explosion happened.
"It went from black smoke to a fireball. It shot up so high," she said.
"Then a huge heat wave went right over the car. We just felt instantly hot. People were running away. Honestly, we actually thought of abandoning the car and running, too."
Brazil said the bright orange flames shooting up were overwhelming — and terrifying.
"We knew we were too close," she said. "More fire trucks started coming and the cops told us we had to leave."
Brazil was heading downtown toward home when she and a friend decided to check out the clouds of smoke billowing from St.Boniface.
"We went exploring... I never expected anything like this. We got there and we didn't see any flames. Then it just exploded.
"It happened so fast."
Stephan Cooper, who was out with his family for a walk, said "It's huge. I've never seen anything like this before."
Cooper said his brother lives closer to the blaze and told him to avoid the area altogether. Cooper said police have told many people to leave the immediate area, noting police would not let him walk farther than Marion at Dufresne Avenue.
Glenn Schmidt stood a few blocks from the inferno and videoed as loud pops sent explosions ripping through the blaze. He said curiosity made him want to get close enough to see what was going on.
Schmidt said firefighters were letting the fire burn since adding water would do little good.
"You can't put it out with water. It's diesel fuel," he said.