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Previously: Red Cross Establishes Emergency Shelter For Those Displaced By San Bruno Fire, CHP Closes Roads In Area

Elsewhere: San Bruno Explosion Fire in Photos [SFist], SAN BRUNO FIRE KILLS AT LEAST 3, DESTROYS 53 HOMES [CBS5], Residents Reported Leak Days Before Explosion [Bay Citizen], San Bruno Families Recount Painful, Fiery Night [Bay Citizen], Residents tell of start of San Bruno inferno [Chron], San Bruno fire half contained, missing person search to begin shortly [Golden Gate X-Press], UPDATE: San Bruno evacuees to be transported to nearby shelter [Golden Gate X-Press]

9/10 1:18 AM: The American Red Cross set up two shelters to accommodate residents displaced by Thursday night’s fire, including one at Veterans Memorial Recreation Center, a Red Cross spokesman said.

All evacuated residents requiring overnight shelter were directed to the recreation center located at 251 City Park Way at Crystal Springs Road in San Bruno.

For those people who are still trying to locate family members or make other accommodations, a second shelter was set up at the Church of the Highlands to act as a receiving center, Red Cross spokesman Steve Sharp said.

The church is located at 1900 Monterey Dr. in San Bruno.

Scores of displaced residents have already made other arrangements, avoiding the need to stay in the shelters. “We’ve had several hundred people show up at the shelters, but we’re only going to house thirty,” Sharp said of the relatively low demand for overnight housing.

Comfort kits provided by the Red Cross include bathroom accessories and blankets, and the agency is also providing support for infants and assistance for those people with severe medical needs.

“We have a lot of assets,” Sharp said.

The outpouring of community support, manifest by dozens of volunteers who have been showing up at the scene to help, is not the best way to help, Sharp said. Instead, people can make the most impact by donating money online at the Red Cross’ website at

9/10 1:11 AM: Merchants at the Bay Hill Shopping Center are stepping in to help out some of the hundreds of residents displaced by Thursday night’s explosion and ensuing fire that consumed at least 53 homes and damaged 120 others.

The Starbucks Coffee at 851 Cherry Ave., which is right next to the frenzy of volunteers and evacuees in that corner of the parking lot, was still open as of 11:00 p.m. Store employees said they don’t know what time they were planning to close Thursday night.

Volunteers milled about and people huddled in blankets in the open-air shopping center on a cool, windless night.

Across the way at the CVS Pharmacy, store manager Lee Gifford said the store planned to stay open until midnight–three hours longer than usual–to help the victims.

“It’s something that I don’t think anybody really had to think twice about, staying open. This is our community,” Gifford said.

As he was talking, a displaced couple interrupted him to thank him for donating clothing and a blanket to their pregnant friend.

The pharmacy will open earlier than normal today, starting at 7 a.m., Gifford said.

By 11:50 p.m., a pickup truck loaded with caffeinated beverages rolled into the parking lot. Monster Beverage Co. employees unloaded cases of the energy drink, donations that would likely come in handy by morning, when displaced residents begin feeling the impact of the aftermath’s reality.

9/10 12:12 AM: Crews have not been able to attempt search-and-rescue operations in San Bruno after a ruptured gas transmission line caused an explosion and six-alarm fire because the danger has been too high, a San Bruno spokesman said.

Safety assessment teams plan to convene at 6 a.m. today to review the damage, spokesman John Alita said.

Units from nine cities in San Mateo County responded to the blaze, which burned more than 150 homes Thursday night, Alita said.

More than 200 law enforcement officials were providing perimeter control Thursday night and early this morning as firefighters worked to keep the blaze from spreading to more homes.

9/10 12:02 AM: San Bruno city officials said at a news conference Thursday night that fire crews are working to hold the fire, and the city’s priority is the safety of those battling the blaze and those affected by the tragedy.

San Bruno Fire Chief Dennis Haag said he was confident that crews would be able to continue holding the fire and that it would not consume more land or homes than what was already affected.

At an earlier briefing, the fire was reported to be 50 percent contained. Cal Fire has said 53 homes were destroyed at about 120 damaged.

Haag said that a high-pressure gas line was likely to blame for the fire, but that the cause has yet to be confirmed.

The need to completely shut down gas lines is impeding firefighting efforts, Haag said, because those gas lines have residuals that need to be eliminated before crews can access the area for a search.

PG&E president Chris Johns said after the news conference that crews are currently working to stop the flow on the main gas transmission line and will then cut off flow through the distribution lines to individual homes.

Johns said that the company would “fully cooperate” with the investigation and explore unconfirmed witness reports of the smell of gas in the area before the explosions.

Without access to the gas lines, Johns said it was too early to speculate on the cause of the explosion, although he said PG&E was unaware of any of its crews working in the area this evening.

“It’s a tragic event, and we really want to make sure that we can make this area safe right now,” Johns said.

Johns vowed that if the investigation finds that PG&E is at fault, “We will do the right thing for those involved.”

City manager Connie Jackson said that city organizations are fully mobilized to assist residents but are focusing on identifying and locating all those affected.

Jackson repeated directions for those affected to report to shelters at Veterans Memorial Recreational Center, located at the corner of Crystal Springs and Oak Avenues, and at the Veterans Memorial Gym at San Bruno Park.

“It’s urgently important that resident who have been evacuated or who voluntarily evacuated check in with the emergency hotline,” she said. “This is our immediate priority other than the response that will continue on the scene.”

San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane, who was on hand at the briefing, said that his main concern is making sure the citizens of San Bruno are safe.

“I would ask anyone who sees this broadcast tonight to say a special prayer for those people,” Ruane said.

Those affected who have made accommodations to stay with friends or neighbors are urged to register with the emergency hotline at (650) 616-7180.

9/9 11:45 PM: The San Bruno Park School District has announced that its elementary schools will all be closed on Friday.

Capuchino High School will be open, though.

9/9 11:36 PM: A state of emergency has been declared in a region of San Mateo County following a massive gas explosion that rocked San Bruno this evening, destroying dozens of homes and displacing hundreds of residents.

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, whose district encompasses San Bruno, ventured into the heart of his community to assess the damage and develop a plan to assist those affected in coming weeks.

Cal Fire has reported that 53 homes have been destroyed and 120 have been damaged. Hundreds of people have therefore been affected by the disaster, Yee said.

“My heart and prayers go out to the families and victims of this devastating tragedy,” he said.

All available state emergency resources have been deployed to San Bruno, including crews from the California Emergency Management Agency and Cal Fire.

At least two air tankers, two helicopters and 10 engines provided by both agencies are responding at the scene, although a compromised water main has been interfering with efforts to extinguish the still-burning fires.

“With that fire on the hillside, the pressure’s just not enough,” Yee said.

Although emergency crews are trained to tackle the immediate problems at hand, Yee said that he traveled to San Bruno tonight to strategize a long-term recovery effort.

“We need to assess on a long-term basis how the locals are able to handle the housing, the food and the clothing of these particular displaced individuals,” he said.

A thorough investigation of the fire’s cause is expected to take weeks, and in the meantime, part of the recovery process could include the introduction of state legislation that would direct relief dollars to the affected region.

“We will look at whatever we can do at the state level,” Yee said. “Tonight our attention is on stopping any further devastation and helping this neighborhood and community.”

Beyond the shelters set up by the American Red Cross, local businesses–including a winery in San Carlos–are also welcoming those displaced by the explosion and resulting fires, Yee said.

“It’s just heartwarming to know that when people are in distress and trouble that their neighbors and community are willing to open up their doors and their wallets to help,” he said.

9/9 11:26 PM: Safeway is providing sack lunches and water to residents displaced by tonight’s fire in San Bruno, a spokeswoman said.

The company has three stores in San Mateo County, including one just a mile from the fire and explosion, and is providing supplies to displaced residents at the Veterans Memorial Recreation Center, located at 251 City Park Way in San Bruno, Safeway spokeswoman Susan Houghton said.

Safeway is also giving food and water to officials at San Bruno City Hall, located at 567 El Camino Real, where an emergency operations center has been established.

The company is standing by to provide food to firefighters if needed, Houghton said.

9/9 11:25 PM: All but two of the 15 patients originally taken to Kaiser Permanente, South San Francisco Medical Center have been either released or transferred to a burn center, a hospital spokesman said.

Four of the patients were transferred to Saint Francis Memorial Hospital’s Bothin Burn Center in San Francisco and were listed in critical condition, Kaiser spokesman Karl Sonkin said.

Another nine patients were treated and released, he said.

People have been dropping off clothing at the hospital all evening after Sonkin mentioned earlier that many of the victims arrived without much clothing.

The Red Cross is currently accepting all donations on behalf of displaced residents.

9/9 10:52 PM: Residents continued to deal with the devastating effects of an explosion and fire that ravaged a San Bruno neighborhood tonight, while
trauma centers worked to accommodate burn victims and emergency centers were
established for displaced residents.

At least one person has been killed and more than a dozen homes destroyed by 80-foot flames after an explosion was reported at about 6:15 p.m. at Skyline Boulevard and San Bruno Avenue.

The explosion is believed to have been caused by a ruptured PG&E gas transmission line.

Residents originally believed a plane had crashed in the area due to the sound and force of the explosion, but a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration said he was unaware of any planes being unaccounted for.

A fire ball erupted into the sky earlier this evening, causing a giant blaze that has been propelled from house to house by windy weather.

“I heard rumble, rumble, rumble,” one resident said. “The whole house shook. After the rumbling, I heard a whomp sound, and that was it.”

Another resident, Alameda County coroner’s investigator Mike Yost, said he was sitting in his house when he heard what sounded like a jet taking off followed by a long whooshing sound.

Yost was preparing to evacuate the area at about 8 p.m.

Traffic merging onto Interstate Highway 280 from the neighborhood was almost at a stand-still earlier tonight as residents loaded cars with pets and carrying cases and tried to leave the area.

Emergency vehicles drove up and down the streets making sure people in critical areas had evacuated, and most of the remaining residents seemed dazed as they gathered at Crestmoor and San Bruno avenues.

Power appeared to be out in the neighborhood near the corner of Crestmoor Avenue and Trenton Drive as aircraft flew overhead.

A giant plume of smoke could be seen coming over the hill from the north side and heading down the peninsula as far as the eye could see.

One resident stood in her driveway and debated whether she should evacuate. She said some of her neighbors went down the street and saw cars burning.

Another, 25-year-old Julian Antrom, said he hadn’t heard from a friend who lives in the heart of the area hit by the fire.

“This doesn’t happen in San Bruno, you know. Thinks like this just don’t happen,” said Antrom, who added that he almost bought a house near where the explosion occurred.
Daly City resident Avelardo Vega said he has a friend who lives right where the explosion happened, but that the friend was alright.

The friend left an outgoing message on his voicemail saying he and his family were fine, but that his house had been destroyed and his car burned.

A spokeswoman for San Francisco General Hospital said five patients, three of whom were in critical condition, were admitted to the hospital.

Five victims were also brought to the Mills Health Center in San Mateo with minor burns, a hospital spokeswoman said, and four were transferred to Saint Francisco Memorial Hospital’s Bothin Burn Center, the Bay Area’s primary burn treatment center.

Three of the Bothin patients were in critical condition, and one was in stable condition tonight.

The majority of the burn patients appear to have been taken to the Kaiser Permanente, South San Francisco Medical Center.

A Red Cross shelter has been set up at the Veterans Memorial Recreation Center, located at 251 City Park Way at Crystal Springs Road in San Bruno, according to spokeswoman Melanie Finke. Food and shelter will be provided.

Finke said members of the Red Cross team have told her that about 100 people were already at the shelter as of 8:15 p.m.

An evacuation shelter has also been established at the Bayhill Shopping Center by emergency officials, and some evacuees had opted to go there. The Bayhill Shopping Center is located at San Bruno and Cherry avenues.

9/9 10:38 PM: Residents evacuated from the San Bruno neighborhood ravaged by fire tonight discussed their ordeal from a recreation center housing the displaced.

Britany Hartje was among those recovering at the Veterans Memorial Recreational Center, located at 251 City Park Way at Crystal Springs Road in San Bruno.

Hartje, 17, and her grandmother had been inside her home on Trenton Drive, which is just north of San Bruno Avenue West, when her grandmother heard something and the pair looked outside.

“We looked outside and everything was just on fire,” she said. “We grabbed the dog and we left.”

Hartje was still dressed in her pajamas as she stood with some friends tonight. Her grandparents both went to help neighbors, she said, and her grandfather was still trying to help as of about 10 p.m.

Others standing in front of the evacuation center hugged, and a couple of people cried.
A friend of Hartje’s said the 12-year-old brother of a mutual friend was missing. The boy had been at a friend’s house in the area where the fire was burning.

An overloaded cell phone network, burdened by the flurry of calls in the explosion’s wake, has hampered efforts to locate loved ones. Hartje’s friend said that they have not been able to find or contact the missing 12-year-old.

Resident Renato Calip said he was near Lunardi’s Market at 2801 San Bruno Ave. West, which was completed blocked off to traffic, when the fire started.

Calip said he heard an explosion and saw giant flames rising into the sky when he looked outside.

“It was scary. It was really scary,” said Calip, who believes his house might have been spared from the destruction.

A few dozen people – some evacuees, some volunteers–milled about the temporary shelter set up at the Veterans Memorial Recreational Center. A number of teenagers were pitching in at the shelter, bringing in food and drinks for the displaced.

9/9 10: 23 PM: PG&E has acknowledged a company gas transmission line was ruptured prior to tonight’s fire and explosion in San Bruno.

“Though a cause has yet to be determined, we know that a PG&E gas transmission line was ruptured,” the company said in a statement. “If it is ultimately determined that we were responsible for the cause of the incident, we will take accountability.”

9/9 10:17 PM: The California Public Utilities Commission is investigating tonight’s fire and explosion in San Bruno, which many believe was the result of a natural gas line break.

The commission had an investigator on the scene sifting through evidence tonight and plans to continue gathering information for the next few days.

“Our thoughts are with the many families that have suffered losses, injuries, and displacement,” commission director Paul Clanon said in a statement. “Our trained experts will get to the root cause of the explosion and fire.”

The commission said it plans to work with local officials, federal agencies, and PG&E.
A PG&E spokesman said tonight it was too early to determine the cause of the explosion and fire, which was reported at about 6 p.m. at Skyline Boulevard and San Bruno Avenue.

“We have crews on the scene, and they’re working with emergency officials who are looking into the cause,” PG&E spokesman Andrew Souvall said.

He would not say if PG&E had turned off gas in the area after the explosion but said the company is working with the Red Cross to provide emergency shelter for those displaced by the fire.

People in need are asked to call (888) 443-5722, he said.

9/9 10:07 PM: Four victims of tonight’s San Bruno fire have been transferred to the Saint Francis Memorial Hospital’s Bothin Burn Center in San Francisco, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Three of the patients are in critical condition and one is in stable condition.

“We’re not expecting any more cases at this time,” said Theresa Edison, the director of the hospital’s emergency department. “We’re capable of taking more patients; we’re not at capacity.”

Transfer of the patients to the burn center implies that their burns were serious enough to warrant the kind of treatment the center offers, Edison said. Saint Francisco houses the Bay Area’s primary burn treatment center.

One of the patients in critical condition was taken to Seton Medical Center in Daly City before being transferred to St. Francis, Seton spokeswoman Beth Volz said.

She said two other people were taken to Seton with minor burns and were discharged.

The medical center was not anticipating admission of any other victims from the fire and explosion tonight as of 9:55 p.m.

9/9 9:51 PM: San Francisco General Hospital is now treating five victims of tonight’s San Bruno fire, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Three of the patients are in critical condition, spokeswoman Rachael Kagan said. Of those, two suffered burn wounds and one is suffering from smoke inhalation.

A fourth patient suffering from smoke inhalation was listed in serious condition, Kagan said.

The fifth was in good condition and is not being admitted to the hospital.

9/9 9:44 PM: Blood Centers of the Pacific is issuing an emergency appeal for blood donations, particularly of Type O negative, to replenish the supply currently being depleted by those injured in today’s explosion and fire in San Bruno.

Area hospitals are requiring significant amounts of Type O negative blood–the type that can be given to anyone in an emergency.

While the blood center will be able to move supplies from other hospitals to the ones treating the injured patients, the Bay Area’s blood supply will need to be replenished as soon as possible, blood center spokeswoman Lisa Bloch said.

“We’ll juggle blood from other hospitals to make sure that they’re covered, but the problem becomes what happens tomorrow and over the weekend,” Bloch said.

The blood center provides donations to 40 hospitals throughout Northern California, including Kaiser Permanente, South San Francisco Medical Center and Seton Hospital, where fire victims have been taken for treatment, among others.

Although Bloch didn’t have an estimate of how many patients they expect to accommodate from the explosion, she confirmed, “We’re sending as much blood as we can.”

An explosion that was reported at about 6:15 p.m. at Skyline Boulevard and San Bruno Avenue shot 80-foot flames into the sky and belched a plume of smoke that could be seen miles away.

Several people have been injured and more than a dozen homes destroyed by the fire, which witnesses believe was caused by a gas line explosion.

9/9 9:35 PM: The San Mateo County coroner has confirmed at least one person died in tonight’s fire in San Bruno.

“From the reports we have, we have at least one” fatality, coroner Robert Foucrault said.

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