polkfire.jpg

UPDATE 5:22: Van Ness has been reopened and, as you know, residents are free to roam, but non-residents are still expected to stay out of the area. The Chronicle reports that 3,000 customers are without power, so that situation’s improving, as well. In the same story, they quote a guy whose viewing of Hangover at 1000 Van Ness was interrupted by the outage. BUT THEY NEVER SAY IF HE GOT TO FINISH THE MOVIE. How will it end? Poor guy.

UPDATE 4:12: PG&E has updated its outage map with the folowing information:

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Maybe they just have a box to check, like how I have to be in the same box as 50 year olds (kinds, once you get past 35 you might as well be dead) but “500 to 4999 customer(s)” impacted by an outage seems a bit too vague, even for government work.

UPDATE 3:39: It seems like SFTLVaultFire2K9 (per SFist) is over, here’s one more roundup of everyone else’s coverage. SFist tells us traffic is still disastrous in the area (but at least there is traffic, right?). PG&E’s David Eisenhower speaks with ABC7 about the explosion. SFist gets silly. The Public Press has this brief. More from ABC7: this piece says 4500 without power, but PG&E tells us it’s closer to 3800. Who the hell knows?

UPDATE 3:18 Muni says “As of 3:00 p.m., the 47 and 49 routes have resumed normal service. The 19 and the 38 are still being re-routed.” ABC7 is tweeting that “The shelter in place around O’Farrell and Polk has been lifted.” Which means you can leave your house if you’re in the area, so, yay.

UPDATE 2:39: KGO tweets “Now the the fire’s out in the manhole at Polk and O’Farrell in SF, the investigation begins. And the traffic troubles linger. Stay away.” ANd Newsom’s Hair tweets: “Life is full off surprises. One minute, surrounded by tatas, next minute, running out a dark bldg ’cause of booom!”

UPDATE 2:14: Here’s a roundup of everyone else’s coverage so far: CBS5, ABC7, ABC7, Chron, CBS5 (Eye on Blogs division), SFist. Tenderblog, where the hell are you?

UPDATE 2:01: A reader emails us to say that the second round of flames and smoke has died down, and that firefighters and PG&E seem to be waiting around to take next steps to see what went wrong. And, hey, as we typed that, ABC7 said something similar, so we’ll say this is confirmed. Also, ABC7 is interviewing a PG&E spokesperson who is saying it’s 3800 without power, and that the transformer theory is unconfirmed: all he knows for now is that cables have been burning.

UPDATE: 1:53: OK, let’s summarize. If you’re in or around the area, you need to stay in your house with the doors and windows closed until you hear otherwise. If you’re headed through the area, make a detour — if not, you’ll be forced to, anyways. Don’t go down there, as Will pointed out in our comments, the smoke can be very toxic. SFist is all over the story, as is ABC7 and their streaming coverage.

UPDATE 1:48: Chris A. Salazar makes a good point: “underground PG&E explosion on polk and geary. black smoke is toxic. this site in SF has had several problems.”

UPDATE 1:42: ABC7 is tweeting that the smoke is spreading beyond the Tenderloin: they say “FD confirms smoke coming out of manholes @ Civic Center.”

KRON4 just interrupted that Magic Bullet infomercial to say thet the cause of the fire is suspected to be a transformer. If this is just a promotional thing for that Robots in Disguise movie I am going to be pissed. And I don’t think I’m the only one.

UPDATE 1:37: A shelter in place order (that is, a precaution aimed to keep you safe while remaining indoors) has been issued for addresses: 700-1000 O’Farrell, 800-1200 Van Ness, 700-1100 Polk. Authorities are recommending everyone within two blocks of that stay indoors due to smoke from the reignited fire. Also, the estimate of those without power has been raised to 4200 from 3200.

UPDATE 1:16: CBS5 is reporting that “flames have reignited” in the underground area. Also, the Chronicle filed their report at 1:13. Just sayin’.

UPDATE 1:06:
As you can imagine, twitter people are freaking out. Rumor control: no, it “a huge underground explosion” with “dangerous gas escaping” is probably hyperbole.

UPDATE 12:52: SFist commenter MalcoveMagnesia notes that “no smoke coming from that area anymore… just the Channel 7 newscopter hovering overhead.” Streets remain closed, however. KGO says “crews have to let the fire burn itself out before they can investigate what went wrong.”

Pedestrian and vehicle traffic is prohibited between “the box” of Van Ness – Geary – Larkin – Ellis – Van Ness, says the SFPD, after an underground explosion around Polk and Van Ness filled the area with smoke.

Muni Spokesperson Judson True says Muni service in the area (the 38 Geary, 19 Polk, 47 Van Ness and 49 Van Ness/Mission) has been disrupted, and promises updates when he has them.

Firefighters and medics are on scene to rescue folks trapped due to the power outage and to ensure anyone suffering from the smoke will receive assistance. As of 12:15, they were still waiting for PG&E to arrive.

The PG&E equipment fail has also caused 3200 customers to lose power. PG&E spokeswoman Tamar Sarkissian said the first report of an outage came in around 11:36 this morning.

ABC7 is streaming video from the scene, and ActionNewsSF has tweetvideo of the smoke.

Tweetpic: actionnewssf

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at eve@sfappeal.com.

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  • Plug1

    wait, wait, wait.

    there is always some sort of smoke billowing in the Tenderloin air.

    the real story here is “underground vault”. can someone pls explain more about this alleged “vault”??

  • Plug1

    wait, wait, wait.

    there is always some sort of smoke billowing in the Tenderloin air.

    the real story here is “underground vault”. can someone pls explain more about this alleged “vault”??

  • Wil

    Just got a “shelter in place” notice from SF Alerts. Implies there may be some truth to the “toxic smoke” aspect of this. Power transformers contain all sorts of nasty PCBs and the like. (And are also fond of failing catastrophically with a big bang.)

    @Plug1 It’s a cable vault, utility parlance for where cables are run, not where valuables are kept.

  • Wil

    Just got a “shelter in place” notice from SF Alerts. Implies there may be some truth to the “toxic smoke” aspect of this. Power transformers contain all sorts of nasty PCBs and the like. (And are also fond of failing catastrophically with a big bang.)

    @Plug1 It’s a cable vault, utility parlance for where cables are run, not where valuables are kept.