Alexa

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...
 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...
 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, ...
 Firefighters continue to battle hot spots and search for missing people in a neighborhood following a massive gas line explosion in San Bruno, Calif....
 Firefighters continue to battle hot spots in a neighborhood following a massive gas line explosion in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. Fire...
 Firemen work on the remains of a home damaged by a massive fire in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. Fi...
 A rescue worker walks with a search dog and goes house to house looking for missing people in a neighborhood damaged by a gas line explosion in San B...
 Firefighters and officials with dogs look over damage caused by a massive fire in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sep...
 Aerial view of damage caused by a massive fire in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010.   Fire crews tried ...

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

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

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, ...

Large Explosion

Firefighters continue to battle hot spots and search for missing people in a neighborhood following a massive gas line explosion in San Bruno, Calif....

APTOPIX Large Explosion

Firefighters continue to battle hot spots in a neighborhood following a massive gas line explosion in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. Fire...

Large Explosion

Firemen work on the remains of a home damaged by a massive fire in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. Fi...

Large Explosion

A rescue worker walks with a search dog and goes house to house looking for missing people in a neighborhood damaged by a gas line explosion in San B...

Large Explosion

Firefighters and officials with dogs look over damage caused by a massive fire in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sep...

Large Explosion

Aerial view of damage caused by a massive fire in a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. Fire crews tried ...

Fire crews sifted through dozens of burned-out houses and tried to account for residents Friday after a gas line ruptured and a massive fireball exploded through a neighborhood near San Francisco, killing at least four people.
Crews with dogs went house to house and officials said there could be more casualties from the Thursday evening blast. Homes were left with just chimneys standing and smoke still rose from 15 acres (6 hectares) of smoldering wreckage. Fire officials said the blaze is fully contained, but a quarter of the homes are still too hot to search.
"It was pretty devastating," said San Bruno Fire Chief Dennis Haag. "It looks like a moonscape in some areas."
Eight investigators were at the scene Friday, working to determine the cause of the explosion. Police are blocking people from approaching the burn area.
"Until we can determine what caused that, we are protecting that like a crime scene, looking for evidentiary value items," said San Bruno Police Chief Neil Telford.
One man was arrested Thursday night on suspicion of looting and assaulting an officer, Telford said.
At least 50 people were hurt in the blast and fire, with eight in critical condition at area hospitals. The explosion 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.
Haag said he didn't know of anyone confirmed missing, though officials were still waiting for all residents to check in. Nearly 40 homes were destroyed and seven significantly damaged. Dozens of other homes suffered less severe damage in the fire.
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.
Haag said Friday afternoon they're still not able to access the site of the ruptured gas line because it's covered with water.
The damaged section was isolated and gas flow to the area has been stopped.
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.
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."
The mood was apprehensive at the evacuation center Friday, where several dozens of people came to get information and services.
Carlene Vasquez did not know what happened to her house and was anxiously waiting for news when her son came up and showed her a picture of her house, still standing, on his mobile phone.
"Oh my house," she said, crying. "That's my house."
Four firefighters suffered minor smoke inhalation injuries and were treated and quickly released, Haag said.
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.
___
Contributing to this report were Associated Press Writer Sudhin Thanawala 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 : 2020-11-30 20:33 GMT+08:00