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Crews try to reach smoldering homes after blast

 A ball of flames and smoke are seen in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Several homes were destroyed as a massive fire roared through a mo...
 A massive fire roars through a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Firefighters from San Bruno and surroun...
 A massive fire is roars through a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Firefighters from San Bruno and surr...
 A massive fire is roars through a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Firefighters from San Bruno and surr...
 Map shows massive fire from possible gas line explosion in San Bruno, Calif.
 A woman is treated by firemen after an explosion in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Several homes were destroyed as a massive fire roared...
 A firefighter shoots water from his firehose at a massive fire, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010 in a neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif. (AP Photo/George Nikit...
 A home destroyed after a massive fire that roared through a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Firefighte...
 Two cars burned after a massive fire  roared through a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Firefighters fr...
 A home for sale sign is shown in front of home that was destroyed after a massive fire that roared through a mostly residential neighborhood in San B...
 A helicopter drops water on a massive fire through a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Firefighters from...
 A helicopter dumps water on a part of a massive residential fire, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010 in San Bruno, Calif. (AP Photo/George Nikitin)
 Evacuees look for donated clothing at a Red Cross shelter in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010 following a massive fire in their neighborhood...
 An injured evacuee who wished not to be identified, looks for donated clothing as she walks around a Red Cross shelter in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, ...
 Millbrae, Calif., fire chief Dennis Haage, left, talks with San Bruno, Calif., residents Toni Vaccari, right, and her daughter, Debbie Shea, about re...
 San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane talks about the aftermath of a massive gas explosion during a news conference at a shopping center, Friday, Sept. 10, 2010,...
 A volunteer, left, helps an evacuees who wished not to be identified, at a Red Cross shelter in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010 after she w...
 San Bruno, Calif., resident Lester Vaccari, bottom, listens to find out when he can return to his home following a massive gas explosion, during a ne...
 California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, at podium, stands with other public officials and talks about the aftermath of a massive gas explosion during a n...
 Pacific Gas and Electric Company President Chris Johns talks about the massive gas explosion during a news conference, Friday, Sept. 10, 2010, in San...
 Pacific Gas and Electric Company President Chris Johns, right, answers questions following a massive gas explosion as California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldon...
 An injured evacuee who wished not to be identified, touches her head as she walks around a Red Cross shelter in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, ...

Large Explosion

A ball of flames and smoke are seen in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Several homes were destroyed as a massive fire roared through a mo...

Large Explosion

A massive fire roars through a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Firefighters from San Bruno and surroun...

APTOPIX Large Explosion

A massive fire is roars through a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Firefighters from San Bruno and surr...

APTOPIX Large Explosion

A massive fire is roars through a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Firefighters from San Bruno and surr...

CALIF EXPLOSION

Map shows massive fire from possible gas line explosion in San Bruno, Calif.

Large Explosion

A woman is treated by firemen after an explosion in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Several homes were destroyed as a massive fire roared...

Large Explosion

A firefighter shoots water from his firehose at a massive fire, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010 in a neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif. (AP Photo/George Nikit...

Large Explosion

A home destroyed after a massive fire that roared through a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Firefighte...

Large Explosion

Two cars burned after a massive fire roared through a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Firefighters fr...

Large Explosion

A home for sale sign is shown in front of home that was destroyed after a massive fire that roared through a mostly residential neighborhood in San B...

APTOPIX Large Explosion

A helicopter drops water on a massive fire through a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010. Firefighters from...

Large Explosion

A helicopter dumps water on a part of a massive residential fire, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010 in San Bruno, Calif. (AP Photo/George Nikitin)

Large Explosion

Evacuees look for donated clothing at a Red Cross shelter in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010 following a massive fire in their neighborhood...

Large Explosion

An injured evacuee who wished not to be identified, looks for donated clothing as she walks around a Red Cross shelter in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, ...

Large Explosion

Millbrae, Calif., fire chief Dennis Haage, left, talks with San Bruno, Calif., residents Toni Vaccari, right, and her daughter, Debbie Shea, about re...

Large Explosion

San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane talks about the aftermath of a massive gas explosion during a news conference at a shopping center, Friday, Sept. 10, 2010,...

Large Explosion

A volunteer, left, helps an evacuees who wished not to be identified, at a Red Cross shelter in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010 after she w...

Large Explosion

San Bruno, Calif., resident Lester Vaccari, bottom, listens to find out when he can return to his home following a massive gas explosion, during a ne...

Large Explosion

California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, at podium, stands with other public officials and talks about the aftermath of a massive gas explosion during a n...

Large Explosion

Pacific Gas and Electric Company President Chris Johns talks about the massive gas explosion during a news conference, Friday, Sept. 10, 2010, in San...

Large Explosion

Pacific Gas and Electric Company President Chris Johns, right, answers questions following a massive gas explosion as California Lt. Gov. Abel Maldon...

Large Explosion

An injured evacuee who wished not to be identified, touches her head as she walks around a Red Cross shelter in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, ...

Fire crews tried to douse the remnants of an enormous blaze and account for the residents of dozens of homes Friday after a gas line ruptured and an explosion ripped through in a neighborhood near San Francisco, killing at least four people and likely more.
Television footage showed crews with dogs going house to house in the neighborhood Friday morning, and officials said there could be more casualties. Earlier Friday, officials said at least six people were killed before revising the official number to four.
At least 50 people were hurt, with three suffering critical burns in the explosion Thursday evening that left a giant crater and sent flames tearing through the middle-class neighborhood of 1960s-era homes in hills overlooking San Francisco, the bay and the airport.
Christina Veraflor, 41, of Napa, grew up in the neighborhood and said Friday morning that her 67-year-old mother's house was destroyed. Her mother, who had lived in the home for 40 years, was at the movies when the neighborhood erupted in flames.
"I woke up this morning and said, 'I'll go to my mom's and get this and get that.' But there is no mom's anymore," Veraflor said.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. President Chris Johns said Friday morning a steel gas pipe ruptured about three feet (a meter) underground just before 6:30 p.m Thursday, but crews still haven't been able to determine the cause of the rupture or the ensuing blast because they can't get close enough. The damaged section was isolated and gas flow to the area has been stopped. The blaze was 75 percent contained by midmorning, fire officials said.
Veraflor said she smelled gas at the house during a visit six weeks ago but did not report the smell to the utility.
"You'd get a whiff of it, and it would dissipate," she said.
Johns said the company has heard the reports that some residents smelled gas in the area before the blast.
"Right now, we haven't got confirmation about that, but we have records that we are going back right this minute to try to confirm what exactly those phone calls look like and when they occurred, and we will report back as soon as we know something."
After the initial blast, flames reached as high as 100 feet (30 meters) as the fire fueled itself on burning homes, leaving some in total ruins and reducing parked automobiles to burned out hulks.
It's not the first time a deadly explosion on a PG&E gas line has devastated a Northern California neighborhood.
On Christmas Eve 2008 an explosion killed a 72-year-old man in the Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova, destroyed one home and seriously damaged others.
The National Transportation Safety Board's final report said PG&E used a wrong pipe to repair the gas line two years before the explosion. Rancho Cordova residents had reported of a gas smell in the area before the blast.
In response to the NTSB's findings, the company said it had taken "extraordinary measures" to ensure a blast like that would never happen again.
The NTSB has sent a four-member team to San Bruno to investigate Thursday's blast.
Four firefighters suffered minor smoke inhalation injuries and were treated and quickly released, said Fire Chief Dennis Haag.
Haag said crews walked through the neighborhood Friday morning and revised the damage estimate to 38 structures destroyed and seven significantly damaged. Dozens of other homes suffered less severe damage in the fire, which burned 15 acres (6 hectares).
___
Contributing to this report were Associated Press Writer Juliana Barbassa and video journalist Haven Daley in San Bruno and Marcus Wohlsen, John S. Marshall and Jason Dearen in San Francisco, and Joan Lowy in Washington.


Updated : 2021-06-24 20:29 GMT+08:00