The PG&E gas explosion in San Bruno's Crestmoore neighborhood Thursday night was quickly declared a mass casualty incident.
Dozens of homes caught fire in quick succession at 6:15 p.m. Many residents said they ran for their lives from a wall of flame and raining asphalt.
By Friday morning state officials said In all, 38 homes were destroyed. That number is down from the 52 homes listed as destroyed late Thursday night. Seven more suffered serious damage and dozens more had some damage. The fire zone spanned 15 acres. Google marked the area burned by the fire at this link.
The San Mateo County Coroner said late Thursday one person died in the explosion. "From the reports we have, we have at least one" fatality, coroner Robert Foucrault said.
By Friday morning, state officials had confirmed that at least four people were dead. They also said 52 patients were being treated; three of them with critical burns. Four firefighters were also being treated for smoke inhalation.
San Bruno Fire Chief Dennis Haag said in a late-night news conference that it would take fire crews until at least Friday afternoon to do a full search for more victims.
Many more people, some with serious burns, were taken to area emergency rooms.
Kaiser South San Francisco said its emergency room was overflowing at one point in the night. More than a dozen people were suffering from burn wounds. Kaiser said they sent four people with the more serious injuries to St. Francis in the CIty. Two remained in the emergency room and the rest were treated and released.
One of the other critically injured patients was taken to Seton Medical Center in Daly City before being transferred to St. Francis, Seton spokeswoman Beth Volz said. A Saint Francis spokesman said they could have taken even more patients, but were not expecting any. St. Francis is the Bay Area's primary burn treatment center.
San Francisco General Hospital said it treated five victims. Three of the people were listed in critical condition, spokeswoman Rachael Kagan told Bay City News. Of those, two suffered burn wounds and one was suffering from smoke inhalation. Two other people were being treated with less serious injuries.
There were many more victims of the fire who survived the explosion unharmed, but without a home. Below is a map of the fire zone and its location compared to I-280.
An emergency shelter was set up for those people at the San Bruno Recreation Center at 251 City Park Way. According to the Red Cross, it had about 100 people who needed shelter Thursday night. Many people walked from the fire zone with only the clothes on their backs. Women were seen walking with children in their arms, just happy to be alive, but not knowing where to go.
Fire crews were on scene all night. Their biggest fear was that an embers from the fires would float to other homes or neighborhoods. That did not happen.
San Bruno set up an emergency hotline for victims or people worried about friends or loved ones: 650-616-7180. Late Thursday they asked everyone who lives in the area of the fire to call the number and check in so that they can account for all the possible victims of the fires. Another evacuation shelter was set up at the Bayhill Shopping Center at San Bruno and Cherry avenues.
"I heard rumble, rumble, rumble," one resident said. "The whole house shook. After the rumbling, I heard a 'whomp' sound, and that was it."
Smoke from the fire traveled miles away. A man in Sunnyvale said he could smell the fire at his business by 8 p.m.
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