Explosion and Fire in San Bruno, South of San Francisco

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An explosion near San Francisco International Airport set more than a dozen homes ablaze and sent people fleeing as it spread through a residential neighbourhood.


Flames had spread to more than a dozen homes in the town of San Bruno and people were being evacuated from areas downwind of the inferno.

Local utility officials were investigating whether the source of the explosion was a large natural gas pipeline.

"I heard a sound like a low flying plane, then all of a sudden the house shook," said Tina DiIoia, who was with her baby in their condominium when the explosion occurred about a half-mile away.

"Then there was another explosion. I went outside and there was debris falling from the air."

A towering font of flame continued to spout from the ground in what witnesses described as a massive "ball of fire."

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Huge fire rips through San Francisco suburb


A massive fire is ripping through a residential area near San Francisco International Airport, with a local petrol station apparently at the centre of the conflagration, witnesses said.

Footage showed many houses on fire in San Bruno, south of the San Francisco city centre.

Local utility officials were investigating whether the source of the explosion was a large natural gas pipeline.

"I heard a sound like a low-flying plane, then all of a sudden the house shook," said Tina DiIoia, who was with her baby in their condominium when the explosion occurred about half a mile away.

"Then there was another explosion. I went outside and there was debris falling from the air."

The Federal Aviation Administration said it had no record a plane crash near the scene.

CNN reported that some people had been injured while a local hospital spokeswoman told ABC America that her hospital was treating one man and had been told another casualty was on the way.

A local pastor told CNN he witnessed a "devastating explosion" that caused the fast-moving fire.

Pastor Leigh Bishop of the Church of Highlands said two people from his church had lost their homes and at least one person had burns injuries.

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The explosion was caused by a break in a two-foot-wide natural gas pipeline, the first such incident since a pipeline explosion killed several construction workers in Walnut Creek in November 2004.

A 60-foot pillar of fire erupted from a punctured Kinder-Morgan petroleum pipeline beside Las Lomas High School when a a backhoe digging too close apparently clipped the high-pressure fuel line. Contractors were working to install a massive water pipe for the East Bay Municipal Utility District just a few feet from the fuel line's path.

Two men were found dead after the initial explosion. Five more went to area hospitals with severe burns, including Javier Ramos, who later died in the hospital.

SAN BRUNO -- A massive fire burned homes as it roared through a mostly residential neighborhood in the hills south of San Francisco following an explosion early Thursday evening.

The fire is burning a few miles from San Francisco International Airport, prompting speculation the blaze was sparked by a plane crash. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said the agency has no record of a crash.

Spokesmen for local airports also said they knew of no missing planes.

Pacific Gas and Electric, the utility company that serves the San Francisco Bay area, is looking into the possibility of a natural gas explosion but had no additional information, said spokesman J.D. Guidi.

Live footage shown on KPIX-TV showed at least a dozen homes destroyed, with flames reaching as high as 60 feet in the air as the fire fueled itself on the burning homes. Planes and helicopters flew over the neighborhood dumping water in an effort to stanch the flames.

Witnesses say a loud explosion was felt just before the flames erupted around 6 p.m.

Jane Porcelli, 62, said she lives on a hill above where the fire is centered. She said she thought she heard a plane overhead with a struggling engine.

A massive fire burns in a residential neighborhood after an explosion Thursday, Sept 9, 2010 in San Bruno. (John Green / Bay Area News Group)

"And then you heard this bang. And everything shook except the floor, so we knew it wasn't an earthquake," Porcelli said.

"I feel helpless that I can't do anything. I just gotta sit by and watch."

...The area where the fire is burning in a mostly residential area a few miles from San Francisco International Airport, but the Federal Aviation Administration and a spokesman for the airport say they have no record of a plane crash. A caller to KPIX-TV says that the fire originated at a gas station.

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September 10, 2010 UPDATE

At least one dead, many injured in San Bruno gas line explosion
By Roman Gokhman
Bay Area News Group
Posted: 09/09/2010 07:02:15 PM PDT
Updated: 09/09/2010 10:10:00 PM PDT

10:05 p.m. -- A spokeswoman for San Mateo County OES confirms there has been one fatality and more than 25 homes involved in the blaze. San Mateo County Sheriff's Office Detective Sean O'Donnell said several hundred people have been displaced.

9:45 p.m. -- KGO-TV reports San Mateo emergency services confirming one fatality

9:30 p.m. -- KPIX-TV interviewed a resident who said there have been numerous complaints of gas smells over the past few days and PG&E has been out to investigate more than once.

9:20 p.m. -- Reporter Matthias Gafni spoke with retired Contra Costa Fire Battalion Chief Dave George.

"What makes this fire so devestating and so difficult is essentially it creates the equivalent of an 8-alarm fire in the heart of a residential neighborhood," George said. "It behaves differently than most other fires because it grows in all directions at the same time. Whatever it wants to do, it does."

George said the heat of the fire would be upwards of 1,200 degrees, which could create radiant heat hot enough to burn a couch inside a brick home through the window.

He said that theoretically, firefighters would first help residents escape and gather resources, as they waited for the gas to be turned off. They would then draw lines at areas on the perimeter where they would work on preventing the fire from crossing and slowly work their way toward the center as possible.

"This is really a worst case scenario," he said. "The closest thing to something like this is when a wildland fire hits a residential neighborhood."

9:15 p.m. -- ABC7 reports San Francisco Giant Pablo Sandoval rented a home in the burned area for his mother. She was evacuated and is safe.

KPIX-TV reported that PG&E shut off the gas supply to the area.

9:10 p.m. -- Reporter Sean Maher is at St. Francis Memorial Hospital: At least three people have been transported to the hospital from Seton Medical Center in Daly City, where the patients were stabilized.

ABC7 reports: Emergency Hotline for Shelter Info: 650-616-7180. Evacuation Center: San Bruno Veterans Memorial Recreation Center at 251 City Park Way.

American Red Cross: Evacuation center is also open at the Bay Hill Shopping Center at San Bruno Ave and Cherry Street. Red Cross volunteers on scene to help.

9 p.m. -- San Mateo County Times reporter Mike Rosenberg:

A family of four who did not give their names tried to get into their car to escape but the car was too hot.

Marilyn Siacotos, a neighbor who lives at the intersection of Fairmont Drive and Concord Way, drove by and picked up the family, consisting of a father, a mother, a son and a daughter. The family lost its cat in the fire.

A massive fire burns in a residential neighborhood after an explosion Thursday, Sept 9, 2010 in San Bruno. (John Green / Bay Area News Group)five said the explosion originated at a home in the immediate vicinity of Fairmont Drive, a one-block road enclosed on both sides by Claremont Drive.

"It was like this big ball of flame that was going up the street," Siacotos said of the fire.

They were told by police to head down to Bayhill Shopping Center, where dozens of people are milling around, some crying, some hugging neighbors and loved ones.

The scene at Bayhill is disorganized, residents said, and no command center has been established by emergency responders. Residents lost cell service after the explosion, and many of them are on their phones, trying to connect with friends and family members.

Neighbors whose houses were not immediately affected by the explosion said police officers came by and told them to flee their homes. They did not have time to grab any belongings.

8:45 p.m. -- Kaiser Hospital is reporting 15 injuries. And a spokeswoman with San Francisco General Hospital said there are at least five patients there -- four women and one man -- in critical condition with significant burns.

8:40 p.m. -- Two brothers, Bob and Ed Pellegrini, live near the house at the center of the explosion.

They said they thought it was an earthquake at first, because the ground shook violently, but then they felt the heat from the flames.

"All of a sudden we saw these flames out our window," Bob Pellegrini said. "It looked like hell on earth. I have never seen a ball of fire that huge."

It was too hot to escape out the front door, so the brothers ran out the back and up the hill, the fire chasing them. It felt like a blowtorch on the back of their necks, they said.

The brothers said their house and four cars were destroyed in the fire.

"The house is gone," Ed said. "I have nothing. Everything is gone. We're homeless."

Claremont Drive resident Patty Blick said she knows her house was destroyed.

"My house is gone; I'm just not really here right now," she said, sniffling.

Blick was driving home from work at about 6:10 p.m. when she was suddenly met with flames and heat. She drove to the Bayhill Shopping Center and saw her house burning on TV.

She said she and her husband are not sure what they'll do tonight, but they have a lot of relatives in the area and have been invited to stay with them.

"I just don't want to leave even though I know nothing is there," she said. "I keep thinking I will find something."

Marilyn Siacotos, 76, lives on Concord Way near Fairmont Drive.

She escaped out her back door because the flames were coming down the street. She helped some neighbors get out and then drove away in her car.

"I didn't look back," she said.

As she left she heard windows breaking.

8:25 p.m. -- At least three critical victims being flown to St. Francis.

Palo Alto Daily News Staff Writer Diana Samuels spoke with Claremont Drive resident John McGlothlin at the Bayhill Shopping Center where he was evacuated to.

McGlothlin was at home when the explosion happened.

"To me, it felt like an earthquake -- hearing rumbling, movement," he said.

He saw a few people with burns, but wasn't certain about the extent of their injuries.

He and his wife brought their dog and nothing else to the shopping center. McGlothlin went to a CVS store and bought a sweatshirt.

"We're getting some essentials," he said.

The couple left their cell phones at home, but bought new ones at the Radioshack at the shopping center. Radioshack is charging the cell phones.

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