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Gas line fire in San Bruno killed 4 destroyed 38 homes

California Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado said today that the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) natural gas transmission line that ruptured after 6 PM PDT last evening with an explosion and fire that killed at least four people, injured 52, and destroyed 38 homes in San Bruno, CA, is now fully contained.

The CNN link above provides several videos of the fire and links to its affiliates KGO and KTVU provide even more information about the fire.

Last night’s live TV coverage showed a hilly landscape of burning houses against a black background, since electricity was no longer reaching the area. The burning homes were ringed by firefighting teams and their vehicles on the ground.

Maldonado declared a state of emergency in San Mateo County.

The 52 injured included included three patients taken to the hospital with third-degree burns and four firefighters who suffered from smoke inhalation. Search efforts with cadaver dogs were roughly 75% complete this afternoon, with no one unaccounted for in the area and no reports of any missing people. About 100 people evacuated to shelters.

PG&E President Chris Johns said that the natural gas transmission line has been secured and no more gas is flowing through that area. There are survey teams walking throughout the area to “make sure it is safe” for residents to return. The National Transportation and Safety Board started its investigation today.

The fire destroyed 38 homes and damaged seven, DOWN from estimates that 52 had been destroyed with 120 damaged. Radiant heat from the gas and fireball was so hot that firefighters could not get close enough to attack some homes that were on fire. Water pressure was also low, because the fire had damaged a water main, so water was trucked in by firefighters.

It seems miraculous that even more lives were not lost or homes destroyed, but it may just be excellent and heroic firefighting. Thanks go out to the firefighters engaged.

(Note added September 13, 2010: The 30-inch diameter natural gas pipe that ruptured was installed in 1948. PG&E has been ordered to check for leaks in all of its more than 5,700 of miles of pipeline. As of Sunday, four were confirmed dead; two have critical burns; two people reported missing have been found alive, and four more people remain missing.)

(Note added September 22, 2010: The San Mateo County coroner has confirmed the deaths of three more people, bringing the death toll to seven.)

-Bill at

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