Several San Bruno residents who witnessed the massive explosion Thursday evening said PG&E crews failed to follow up on older complaints of a local gas leak, but officials said today there was no evidence supporting this claim.
“We did not receive any comments or complaints, and I know of no follow-up investigation conducted by the city because we received no complaints,” said Karen Baker, secretary of Service and Volunteering for California.
Baker added that PG&E President Chris Jones had no immediate knowledge of complaints of a prior gas leak, but that officials are aggressively investigating the claim.
Crews are going house-by-house to find out the volume of damage caused by a blast at Skyline Boulevard and San Bruno Avenue at about 6:15 p.m. Thursday.
The explosion caused flames 80 feet high and at least four fatalities.
San Bruno Fire Chief Dennis Haag said a high-pressure gas line is likely to blame for the blast. He added 38 homes were destroyed and 7 sustained significant damage.
“Someone thought it was an asteroid,” said Jean Edge, a resident of Shelter Creek Condominiums, which are just over one mile from the Thursday blast. She has lived in San Bruno for 25 years.
“We heard the explosion and then saw the flames go up,” said Edge, whose friends’ children were at a potluck at a local elementary school.
“We heard an airplane, then a big boom, then we looked outside and there were lots of flames,” said Rachel Perkins, 9, who was at Rollingwood School’s library at the time of the blast.
“We were all very, very scared,” Edge said.
She added that she thought displaced residents, including several who have been unable to see their homes, would not be allowed past barricades because police were trying to prevent looting.
One man was seen allegedly looting a San Bruno home. He was arrested after trying to evade and assault officers, San Bruno Police Chief Neil Telford said.
Telford said police are currently not investigating any other reports of looting, but continue to consider the area surrounding the explosion a crime scene.
“We have go through that area and make sure there aren’t any items to suggest foul play, then we can continue on with our recovery efforts and getting people back into their homes,” he said.
Baker said PG&E crews have not been authorized to enter the blast area to conduct any significant investigation.
“The area is not yet safe, and I’m sure we will accommodate that investigation when we can,” she said.
The California Public Utilities Commission this year found that PG&E managers did not train field service representatives on the use of gas detection equipment and grading leaks outdoors, according to a statement from state Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo.
“The residents of San Bruno deserve to know if PG&E used the correct procedures in the days and weeks leading up to this disaster,” he said.