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UPDATE: This morning Los Angeles Times is reporting that San Bruno’s fire chief says at least 6 four people were killed by the blast yesterday evening and that the number of dead is expected to rise as more home are searched. At last word 53 homes were destroyed and 120 damaged. The fire covered at least 10 acres.
With a thunderous roar heard for miles, a natural gas line explosion ripped through a San Bruno neighborhood shortly after 6 p.m. Thursday, sending up a geyser of fire, critically burning residents and igniting a blaze that gobbled up more than a dozen houses.
The wind-whipped blaze jumped from structure to structure in the area near Skyline Boulevard and Sneath Lane, west of Interstate 280, raging unabated for almost an hour as emergency crews rushed in, residents cleared out, and ambulance sirens filled the air.
The central ball of fire, fed by the gas line, raged past nightfall before abating. By then, about 20 houses and thick stands of trees were engulfed in flames. Power was cut off to the area, and the only light came from emergency vehicles and the smoldering houses.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. spokesman Jeff Smith said one of the utility’s natural gas transmission lines ruptured. The reason for the rupture is unknown, he said.
Fifteen people were being treated at Kaiser Medical Center in South San Francisco for burns, smoke inhalation and other injuries, spokeswoman Stacey Wagner said. Some critically burned patients had been transferred earlier to California Pacific Medical Center’s St. Luke’s campus in San Francisco, she said.
Five injured people were taken to San Francisco General Hospital. Spokeswoman Rachael Kagan said three were in critical condition – a man in his 50s and a woman in her 80s, both suffering from burn injuries, and a woman in her 80s being treated for smoke inhalation.
A woman in her 60s was in serious condition with smoke inhalation, and the fifth victim was in good condition, Kagan said.