PG & E Gas Leak Leads To San Bruno Fire: Disaster Strikes

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2010-09-1010

I’m preempting our regularly scheduled personal finance piece to talk about something that preoccupied me most of last night and will probably be in my mind for a while. Today is when we see the aftermath of what happened in a Northern California neighborhood that is not too far from where I live. In fact, I’m talking about an area that’s pretty much in the same general area where I reside and work (I would pass this place everyday during my commute when I used to hold a 9 to 5 job) and where many relatives and friends actually live.

PG & E Gas Leak Leads To San Bruno Fire

I’m talking about a disaster that came out of nowhere to consume a residential neighborhood in San Bruno, California last night. The reports have been pouring in, pointing to the cause of the explosion that transpired at a little over 6 PM last night as due to a natural gas line break. No it wasn’t because of a plane crash (suspicion arose as this area is 2 miles from our main airport, SFO). The gas company responsible for this situation actually services the entire Bay Area. Not good to get this kind of proof of our aging infrastructure when we’re sitting in an earthquake prone area.

It was a shocking sight to see the conflagration unfold on my local online news channel and TV. It’s the kind of thing that hits you as surreal, meaning that it strikes you as such an incomprehensible event that your mind makes excuses for it — wanting you to believe it’s happening somewhere else.

Here’s what it looks like from my back yard.

san bruno fire

Here’s what it looks like on Ground Zero.

san bruno fire homes
san bruno fire house
fire neighborhood

More dramatic accounts here. Incredible pictures here.

The scary thing about it is that I know people who live around there. At least 3 families I know live within a mile of the area. And my sister’s family and in laws live in the next town, which is not much different than what the affected place used to look like. Most of these houses (I checked) are worth between $550,000 to $850,000. These are average family homes in the Bay Area: old and a tad bit expensive, tucked away in a safe suburban enclave and well loved by their owners, many of whom have lived there forever.

Thank goodness everyone I know personally is fine. But I am just so sad for everyone who’s lives have been upturned by this catastrophe. The loss of life and property is overwhelming (with scores of families affected and displaced). Even now, some people tell me it smells like a war zone / fire pit right outside their doors. I’ve dished out some fire safety tips before, but just how helpful some of them are at a time like this, I’m not so sure. Best tip of all: get away from the zone as fast as you can. Seems obvious until you hear about just how many people decide to hang around to guard their belongings from looters who dare to brave the elements.

This hits close to home, as this is pretty much my home. Sure, disasters can happen anywhere, and in many cases, you can even predict when it happens, so much so that you’ve got time to act. But the shock factor is great when it’s something you don’t quite expect (blast that levels a whole neighborhood in a few hours). So we need to remind ourselves that freak accidents can happen anywhere. And we should ask ourselves — do we have a disaster plan in place? Do we have enough insurance? Are we ready for an emergency? Do we have the mindset to accept the possibility that we can one day be left with just the clothes on our backs, and if so, will we be okay? How large a loss are you prepared to handle?

Copyright © 2010 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Ashley September 10, 2010 at 12:09 pm

I’m so glad that you, your family, and your friends are all ok.

Silicon Valley Blogger September 10, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Thanks Ashley, we’re all fine, thankfully! We’re thinking of next steps — helping out with local donations. It’s going to be big news here for a while. Tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, we understand and expect, but gas leaks? Pretty unusual.

Honey September 10, 2010 at 2:30 pm

What is scary is that my boyfriend is an attorney and he had a case awhile back (which he remembers losing, though this was a few years ago so he could be wrong) where a town near us was going to install the exact same type of industrial/high capacity gas line 10 feet from a subdivision for a few miles. This is EXACTLY why he was arguing that these types of lines should be away from residential areas, and as far as he knows, the builders for the gas line here went right ahead with their plans.

Bret @ Hope to Prosper September 10, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Whenever I’m up in the Bay Area, I always stay at the Mariott Courtyard in San Bruno. It’s so convenient and uncrowded. I love SF, but I’m not a fan of the traffic and parking.

I hope PG&E gets a better handle on maintenance of their pipelines. They should have people walking around with sniffers.

Manshu September 10, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Glad to see that you are fine….and hopefully people who have been affected will get help and back to normal life soon.

Silicon Valley Blogger September 10, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Thanks for the kind comments everyone. Yes, PG & E is a monopoly and is pretty influential around here. Given that, we’ve got a lot of these gas pipes everywhere! I wonder what kind of changes, if any, will result from this. Same sort of thing happened a few years ago when gas explosions were happening in SF, right in the city. I also wonder just how much liability PG&E will be facing — a twist on a gas disaster ala BP.

Silicon Valley Blogger September 12, 2010 at 11:34 am

Here are more pictures. So unbelievable. I also just got wind of this incredible, frightening footage of the fire.

Susan Gomez September 13, 2010 at 12:48 am

There were once beautiful people in beautiful homes. PG & E should go down for this. They have to pay. They need to make serious changes with how they operate as well.

myfinancialobjectives September 13, 2010 at 6:27 pm

Oh my gosh. I am so sorry for these people..I am glad that no one was hurt! I am also glad that you are OK!

Those homes looked beautiful… PG & E Will hopefully be shelling out some cash for those who lost their homes…

Automobile Bill September 26, 2010 at 2:31 pm

These pictures are really very scary. My sympathy is with of all of them who lost their homes in this accident.

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