Natural gas line explosion destroys or damages 84 homes. Residents of 293 homes return.

Initially, PG&E would not confirm it was a natural gas explosion but reports are coming it from reliable sources that it was a main line explosion, specifically line number 132, a large (16-24 inches) pipe. Videos from news sources confirm a continuing source of fuel.

Updates in reverse chronological order:

PG&E announced today the establishment of a $100 million “Rebuild San Bruno fund”.  $3 million has already been handed over to the city of San Bruno to cover expenses to date. Owners of homes damaged or destroyed will received an immediate $50,000 payment “no strings attached” to cover immediate expenses.

Funds will be used to provide both immediate and long-term support to San Bruno residents and the city for three primary purposes:

• Ensuring that residents are reimbursed for costs or losses that may not be covered by their insurance.
• Providing additional direct immediate financial assistance, in the form of cash disbursements, to residents in the affected area.
• Reimbursing the city of San Bruno for costs it incurs to respond to this incident and to rebuild or repair public infrastructure and facilities.


Monday Sep 13: Sneath Lane is now open to traffic for the first time. Police will continue to patrol the area throughout the week.

On Sunday morning, residents of 293 homes were allowed to return. The residents of the remaining 84 homes damages or destroyed were not permitted to return.

Utility services are quickly being restored.

Images from the San Bruno local assistance center and town hall meeting on Saturday.

Official have revised the death toll back to 4 saying remains found Saturday have not been confirmed to be human.

KGO7 has this 2:30 video of the aftermath from the ground.

The aftermath from the air: (turn off sound)

  • The fire was reported contained 2 hours ago. 75% homes searched.
  • PG&E has committed food, housing and other aid to victims.
  • The waiting period for applying for unemployment has been waived for victims.

Commercializing and capitalizing on the hardship of others

It has not even been 24 hours yet and commercial companies are arriving and setting up camp at the unofficial command center. It appears they have units who specialize in responding to such scenes. They use very large trucks with huge graphics on the side panel to make sure they are visible. They are offering water and snacks and of course whatever they are peddling. AT&T is not offering any food or water. I can only guess they are offering phone service.

I have to admit the sight of this caught me a bit off guard. They have just as much right to be here as anyone else but is this kind of advertising insensitive? So far, I just see restoration services and AT&T. But what if a law firm setup up camp? What about a funeral home? At what point does this cross the line and how soon is too soon? The final death toll has not even been determined yet and when the first vendor arrived, the fire was not even 100% contained.

I’ll point out that this is not where most of the displaced residents are gathered. Most of them were evacuated to another location. So is this for media coverage only?

I just spoke to AT&T and they are providing phone charging and phones to use at their booth. They said they do this all the time as a service to the community.

The other companies have packed up and I fear they have moved to the evacuation center where all the victims are gathered

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Some images from the press conference:

8:45 am: The officials just finished a press conference. They will only confirm 4 dead but the number will surely go up.

  • Congresswoman Jackie Speier said she was proud of the response from all the agencies involved. She was pleased with the president of PG&E responding to the scene. A number of Federal agencies are involved including NTSB, FEMA, SBA. When asked if Governor Schwarzenegger has been in touched, she simply said “no”.
  • Governor Schwarzenegger is in Asia on a trade mission. He tweeted “Got briefed on San Bruno emergency by LtGov @abelmaldonado. Glad I left the state in good hands.” an hour ago.
  • PG&E president Chris Johns said after the news conference that crews are currently working to stop the flow on the main gas transmission line and will then cut off flow through the distribution lines to individual homes adding “It’s a tragic event, and we really want to make sure that we can make this area safe right now.”
  • The gas pipe that exploded is a 40 or 50 year old 30-inch pipe that is buried about 2.5 to 3 feet underground.
  • Neil Telford, chief of police said it was too early to assess if there are any lessons to be learned. He is proud of the response of all the emergency works saying there were over 400 emergency responders from San Mateo County alone.
  • San Bruno fire chief Dennis Haag said the fire is about 75% contained. The fire varied in size throughout the night. They are still unable to get close enough to assess the cause.
  • 15 acres burned, 38 homes destroyed, 8 more suffered significant damage. Much lower than the earlier reports of 52 homes destroyed and 120 damaged.
  • San Mateo Senior Deputy Coroner Michelle Rippy said Friday that officials at the scene confirmed that four people have died in the fire. Authorities planned to use cadaver dogs to launch a grim search late Friday for other victims once the area was secure and the rumble had cooled. 52 are confirmed injured.
  • Law enforcement officers were patrolling the fire zone to protect homes from looters. Authorities said a man and a woman had been arrested overnight for stealing from homes.
  • In an interview with State senator Leland Yee, he said “As a child psychologist, I know it will take years for these families to recover”
  • Rich Chooro, a resident on Lake Drive about 1/4 mile overlooking the scene told me he could feel the heat from the fire plumes.

6:55 am: I tried to donate blood. Went to Kaiser and they couldn’t do it. Sent me to the Red Cross. Went to the Red Cross truck at the command center. No officials reps here from fire or police. Red Cross volunteer had no idea about where to donate blood. Someone else reported that the evacuation center only had 3 Red Cross volunteers and little information. All the media are here but they have no clue if and when a news conference will happen.

California Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado, acting governor while Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was in Asia on a trade mission, declared a state of emergency in San Mateo County.

6:00 am: The emergency staff at Kaiser South San Francisco reported over 30 injured admitted last night.