Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, San Bruno emergency responders and city officials held a news conference this afternoon to update the public on the disastrous gas explosion and fire that occurred in a residential area Thursday night.
“I want to assure the people of San Bruno and the people of California that we are moving quickly to find the cause,” Maldonado said of the explosion. “It is very, very important to all of us.”
San Bruno fire Chief Dennis Haag announced that 75 percent of the burned area has been searched with the help of rescue dogs for any remaining people, but that the remaining 25 percent of the area is still too hot to enter and must go through a cooling process.
Authorities are continuing to search, and San Bruno fire officials have requested two more urban search and rescue teams to come help, Haag said.
Haag confirmed that there is currently no indication that anyone is unaccounted for, and he called the lack of missing person reports “very encouraging.”
“I don’t want to find any more people,” Haag said of sifting through the rubble and debris.
“It’s unfortunate we lost anyone.”
The San Mateo County coroner’s office said four people died from the fire, which sparked around 6:15 p.m. Thursday when a high-pressure PG&E natural gas main erupted in the heart of a crowded Crestmoor Canyon neighborhood.
Jean Fraser, the chief of the San Mateo County Health System, said at the press conference that 52 patients have been treated at county hospitals as a result of the fire.
Fifteen of those people had to be transferred by ambulance and 37 were able to transport themselves, she said.
Four firefighters were also treated for minor injuries and later released.
She said the county health system is focusing on assisting people displaced by the fire, including replacing prescriptions and providing care for people with ongoing medical needs, and offering crisis counseling to people in the two shelters the city has set up.
During the ongoing investigation of the area, emergency responders need to shut down the water supply to the neighborhood in order to fix damaged sewer lines that are preventing PG&E representatives from accessing the gas lines and determining a cause for the explosion, Haag said.
The National Transportation Safety Board is also sending representatives to conduct their own investigation, he said.
San Bruno police Chief Neil Telford also spoke at the conference, announcing that police will continue to protect the homes that survived the fire from looters in addition to assisting the search and rescue operations.
Telford said there has only been one instance of looting, in which officers responded to a call about someone allegedly robbing a house in the damaged neighborhood. When responding officers tried to stop him, the suspect assaulted them, but was arrested after a pursuit.
Speakers also reminded victims of the multitude of resources available to them in the wake of the tragedy.
Beverly Beasley Johnson, the director of the San Mateo County Human Services Agency, said victims of the fire are eligible to receive disaster benefits from that organization.
Victims can register for the benefits at the Red Cross shelter or at any Human Services Agency office in the county, including those in East Palo Alto, Daly City, and San Carlos, Johnson said.
Maldonado requested that FEMA assessors immediately assess all the damaged properties to determine what additional assistance will be needed, and said that PG&E has committed to providing temporary housing, food, clothing, and other essential items to the victims.
City Manager Connie Jackson reminded people to utilize the Red Cross assistance center set up at the Veterans Memorial Recreation Center at 251 City Park Way.
Jackson also asked that any residents who have not yet confirmed their whereabouts check in at the center so the city “can begin to complete accurate accounting of the residents in the affected area.”
Jackson announced that the city plans to hold a town hall meeting Saturday at 2 p.m. at St. Robert’s Catholic Church at 1380 Crystal Springs Road, across the street from the Red Cross shelter.
Karen Baker, the state’s secretary of service and volunteering, thanked Bay Area residents and the 100 American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter volunteers that quickly responded to the San Bruno disaster.
She encouraged people who want to assist in ongoing relief efforts to visit www.californiavolunteers.org to look for opportunities, and said that the best way to help the Red Cross is with financial donations.
People can also contribute money to the San Bruno Relief Fund set up by the San Francisco Foundation, Baker said.