A police officer runs towards the fire (Getty Images: Justin Sullivan)
San Bruno is a small town just south of San Francisco, on the peninsula. Apparently, a couple of hours ago, a neighborhood exploded.
Witnesses reported hearing a huge explosion. An entire neighborhood is engulfed in flames, and so far 12 homes have been confirmed destroyed. PG&E has just confirmed that it is a ruptured natural gas line under Sequoia Ave and Sneath Lane.
Another view of the San Bruno fire. (Photo by osxdude via SFist.com)
Photo by RodrigoBNO via SFist.com
Current updates indicate the fires are moving from house to house, and the nearby hospital has reported a large number of people with injuries. Flights in and out of SFO are operating and on time. Residents displaced by the fire can find food and shelter at the Veterans Rec Center at 251 City Park Way in San Bruno.
This is just incredibly weird. I can’t help but wonder if there are shenanigans, because a gas main blowing up is just something that doesn’t happen with any regularity. The last one I can even recall reading about was in New York City several years ago. Kyle speculates that this would be a good pilot project for a terrorist attack on infrastructure. A test run on a soft target (residential neighborhood in a low-risk area) would be one logical step toward such an attack.
On an entirely unrelated note, when I drove to class this morning, the entire campus was blocked off and posted “campus closed until further notice”. The emergency turned out to be a campus-wide power outage. I suspect the construction crews that are working there. Last semester they kept setting off the evacuation alarm. It wouldn’t surprise me overmuch to learn that they somehow severed power for the whole college.
A firefighter walks from the scene of three destroyed homes in Detroit Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010. (AP Photo/Detroit Free Press, Kathleen Galligan)
Normally when a major city in the United States is swept by more than 85 fires over the course of a single night and 74,000 people have a power outage, the national news media talks about it. High winds overnight may have been the initial cause:
Detroit Fire Commissioner James Mack addressed questions from reporters who asked how all of these fires started. Commissioner Mack said the high winds and the downed wires played a major role in the outbreak of the house fires. However, he says at least two fires may have been the work of an arsonist.
Some of the worst damage is on the city’s east side. At least 20 homes burned in the area of Robinwood and Van Dyke. The fire spread across the city block to Robinwood Street. Firefighters say it’s possible the blazes in this neighborhood were ignited by a faulty transformer spraying sparks. Those sparks were carried by strong winds and started fires at a number of other houses.
A home is engulfed in flames on Detroit’s east side Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010. (AP Photo/Detroit Free Press, Marcin Szczepanski)
The number of buildings affected is currently estimated in the dozens, and it has been noted that many of those buildings are abandoned or uninhabited (which is not unusual in Detroit these days).
More interesting, however, is the possibility that there were known, preexisting problems with the power grid that residents reported and which were ignored by the utility company:
The family of a Detroit couple whose home was burned in one of dozens of fires that swept the city Tuesday night said they had been trying to get DTE Energy to the home to check on power surges and service interruptions since last week, but no one from the utility came.
The family also suspected a neighbor was trying to hook into the electric line illegally and told DTE as much, Michelle Denton said.
It would not surprise me much to learn that there is a lot of illegal power grid tapping going on in Detroit these days, given the abject poverty and decay of the city.
“We’ve had aid before, just to help out in a specific area, but this time is different. We don’t have anyone available,” said Detroit Fire Capt. Dan McNamara, a 33-year veteran of the department who is president of the Detroit Firefighters Association. “It used to be we could throw enough resources to knock something big down and work our way into it. The day of reckoning has come.”
Though the city does not have enough fire trucks, McNamara said the main concern is the city doesn’t have the firefighters to staff them. Eight or nine fire companies out of 65 are shut down each day, he said.
A Detroit firefighter looks through the smoldering yards of burned homes and garages on East Robinwood in Detroit, Michigan Sept. 8. Dozens of fires swept across Detroit Tuesday night, fanned by high winds and downed power lines with as many as 20 of the fires on East Robinwood and adjacent streets. (Reuters, Rebecca Cook)
Even after firefighters arrived at the scene of a fire, they had to wait for DTE to send people out to deal with the high voltage power feed.
So why is the mainstream press apparently uninterested in this story?