Around 6 p.m. Thursday, residents near Skyline Boulevard in the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno felt a massive shake in the ground beneath them. Some assumed it to be an earthquake, while others thought, being located near an airport, that a plane might have crashed. What really took place was a catastrophic explosion at the nearby Pacific Gas & Electric plant. PG&E has confirmed that the explosion was triggered by a ruptured gas line.
Gas Line Explosion Stuns Residents
KTLA News reports that the explosion “caused massive fireballs” that shot through the San Bruno neighborhood and quickly produced a colossal fire that roared through the area. The Bay Citizen says residents describe the explosion as “a roaring sound like that of a jet engine followed by an enormous thud.” Upon visiting the area of the blast, photo journalist Don Ford said the explosion left a crater 15-feet deep with a radius of 40 to 50 feet.
Throughout the night, the notorious winds of San Bruno fed the flames as firefighters worked to get the massive fire under control. Fox News reports that the fire department had to bring in water from other areas because the explosion destroyed water lines. Kelly Huston, from California Emergency Management, stated that at 10 p.m. Thursday, “the flames were 50% contained and the leaking gas lines capped.”
As of the early hours of Friday morning, 53 homes have been destroyed and over 150 are estimated to be damaged. So far, three deaths have been confirmed, as well as many injuries. Hospitals around the area went on triage alert and have been treating incoming patients with burns and smoke inhalation, some cases critical.
Hundreds of Workers & Volunteers Race to Help Victims
With so many residents being evacuated, most with only a moment’s notice, chaos certainly abounds. But, admirably, city officials and volunteers have all pitched in to make the disaster as easy as possible for the victims and prevent further damage. Bay Hill Shopping Mall has been set up as a temporary command center, while local recreation centers and senior centers are serving as shelters for evacuated residents.
Mary McMillan of the San Mateo Office of Emergency Services praised their local Red Cross for immediate action to help victims who have now lost their homes and many others searching for loved ones and shelter. McMillan also spoke her gratitude for Safeway, a local grocery store that quickly stepped up to provide food for the shelters quickly filling with evacuated residents. Animal Control officers and volunteers are setting out first thing Friday morning to search for and rescue trapped pets. McMillan also said area churches have not hesitated to provide any help and support possible to the victims.
Residents: Call The Local Red Cross for Help
To find loved ones separated during the fire or request help, McMillan urges evacuees and their families to call the local Red Cross Disaster Help Line at (650) 259-1750. While so many dedicated people have willingly rolled up their sleeves to help, this is still sure to be the beginning of a long and painful recovery and rebuilding process. But McMillan feels confident in their combined efforts to help those devastated by the disaster in the weeks and months to come.