A few months ago we started the Mississauga Retrospective series, and we kicked it off with the 1979 train crash at Cooksville. That was an incredible event that changed the city forever, but one where there miraculously was not a single fatality. Sadly, the same cannot be said of an event that occurred 10 years prior.
On October 25th 1969, at 2:55 PM, a natural gas line leak caused an explosion at the Four Corners of Malton. Right on the intersection of Airport and Derry Roads, the gigantic eruption shot flames 150 feet into the air.
Numerous buildings were obliterated by the explosion, including the local post office, the Avronian Restaurant, Langford’s Variety store, Malton Hardware, and Baker’s Lumber. With the flames reaching heats as high as 1500 degrees Fahrenheit, everything in the vicinity was eviscerated.
Unfortunately, that also pertains to 75-year-old Jean Perigo. Considering the extent of the explosion, it’s incredible that only one person died that day. Twenty other civilians were injured however, with some over 200 yards from the explosion at the time.
The flames spread and, because it was a chaotic gas fire, it was difficult for firefighters to get anywhere near. It was four hours before the pipelines had been shut off and the firemen could tackle the blaze.
As evening approached, over 350 families were evacuated from the area, many of whom were never able to return. Toronto police, the RCMP, the OPP, Red Cross, St. John Ambulances, and Salvation Army all lent their services to try and help civilians. It was after 7 PM before the fire was finally extinguished.
The full extent of the damage wasn’t realised until the next day, as 2 houses, 12 apartments, 17 businesses, and 49 cars were found to be destroyed. Fire Chief Joe Miller estimated the cost of the damages to be over $1.5 million!
The cause of the explosion was found to be a break in a gas line underground, which saw the steel collide with rock and cause a spark that erupted the gas. The government set about rebuilding Malton and relocation the many families that had been dislodged and their homes destroyed.
The rebuilding process cost over $6 million and took 10 years. The road at Four Corners was redesigned to have six car lanes, instead of four, and extra precaution was taken to ensure no such disaster would happen again.
If you go to Malton today you’ll see no inclination that there was ever any disaster there. However it was a full decade after the explosion before Malton began to resemble its old self, and the older residents there can never forget.
The explosion that day was hell itself had erupted from the ground. Considering the scale and temperature of the flames, it’s no surprise so many buildings and cars were annihilated. And it’s a testament to the hard work and bravery of emergency service workers from across the GTA that so few people were badly injured. Of course, Jean Perigo’s life was lost that day, making the Malton explosion not so much another Mississauga miracle, but a tragedy.
Photos Couresty of Mississauga Libarary