Hundreds of San Bruno residents returned to their homes Sunday - just days after a natural gas pipeline erupted into a massive fire that killed four people, injured 60 others and destroyed 37 homes. But dozens of properties remain off limits. City officials called a meeting for Monday morning to discuss the details with residents barred from returning to their homes.
On Sunday San Bruno city officials orchestrated the return of hundreds of residents to 293 homes on streets surrounding the epicenter of the natural gas pipe blast. The properties in those areas suffered no damage from last Thursday's explosion that shook the ground so violently residents thought a plane had crashed.
But city officials barred residents from 84 homes from returning until public safety officials declare those homes safe to enter.
The explosion and fire destroyed many of those houses. Fire Chief Dennis Haag said the fire burned some properties to the ground leaving only concrete foundations and chimneys. Some of the houses suffered "extensive damage." Other residences may be undamaged but fall within a police perimeter. San Bruno police designated the area around the blast site a crime scene to preserve evidence.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board spent the weekend scrutinizing the destruction for clues of what caused Pacific Gas and Electric's 30-inch diameter natural gas pipe to rupture. Investigators found the explosion was forceful enough to shoot a 23-foot section of that steel pipe a hundred feet from the blast and gouge a crater in the ground over 100 feet long and 25 feet deep.
The blast also ruptured a water main and damaged part of the neighborhood sewer system – flooding the crater. Fire crews have to fix the water main and sewer damage and dredge the crater before federal investigators could examine the site of the blast. The NTSB said a report on the findings will take over a year to complete.
PG&E was hoping to restore energy to the area by Sunday night.
California's Public Utilities Commission has ordered PG & E to inspect its natural gas system. The PUC will conduct its own investigation of the San Bruno blast.