1. This is a very tragic event. I feel very sorry for the people who were injured, killed and lost their homes. This explosion came with no warning and was so intense it broke a water main and firefighters had no water to fight it for some time. Plane and helicopter water drops were required. The ferocity of this blaze was incredible.
    The other tragedy is the fact that this type of event happens with some regularity.

    1. Jason. Such accidents are rare in the U S, by your list. Nothing can be made perfectly safe, but a major pipeline running through a residential area would be inspected fairly often in this country. Often, a pipeline explosion is not a completely spontaneous event. Someone digs a backhoe into it, or someone explodes something else (like a meth lab) on top of it. Back in the day when I knew something about these things, pipelines many required inspections with pigs with cameras on them and so forth. It’s been a while though. I will be very interested to see what the cause of this one is.
      It is terribly tragic. My first reaction was being terrified: Is my friend okay? My best friend in the world lives in San Carlos. Luckily, that’s at some distance from the explosion. San Bruno, Burlngame, San Carlos, right? The stops on the SP commuter line, as I remember them…

      1. Yes, San Carlos is about 10 miles south of where this took place. Since the explosion was very close to the SF International Airport, people thought initially it might have been a plane crash.
        The list on Wikipedia is not mine of course and the list itself states it is incomplete.
        I would argue there are degrees of rarity among tragic events. One could say fatal car accidents are fairly rare yet the small probability of occurrence leads to devastating death tolls every year.
        I had a personal experience with a gas leak at an apartment building where I used to live. The leak was outside by the meter, it must have been going on for a few hours as a cloud of invisible gas had accumulated under the side entry way at the side of the building. I smelled the gas but didn’t realize I was walking into a small cloud of it until I took a few breaths and almost passed out. My vision started to darken and I felt extremely dizzy. Once I got through the door I started to feel better but I know others have not been so lucky. Natural gas can kill whether it’s been ignited or not. I have rarely met anyone who has never witnessed the volatility and danger of fossil fuels first hand. Once you’ve seen and felt these dangers first hand in some experience, somehow it just doesn’t seem all that rare. It feels more like an accident is always waiting to happen.

  2. I’m about a mile and a half from the area the explosion took place. We could see the glow of the flames above the hill separating us from that area. This morning, driving to work down H280 the usual fog was replaced by an acrid smoke hanging over the area, between San Bruno and the SFO, the big air port nearby.
    We didn’t hear the explosion but we started getting calls from everyone in the area to look south toward the gas fire…a huge plume of brown smoke rising in what was a cloudless day.
    We accept industrial accidents as par for the course in an industrial society such as ours. Risk wise…we live with it. Nuclear offers at least the chance to move to an electron based energy consumer society instead of direct fossil fuel usage. Lets transition to that.
    David Walters

  3. This is definitely one of the worst fossil fuel industrial accidents I’ve seen happen in the Bay Area. There have been several explosions at the refineries in Martinez and Richmond California over the past 20+ years. I remember one of those rattling the windows of the house from 10 miles away. We could see the fire glow from that distance as well.
    About 3 years ago, a petroleum pipeline was punctured near my old high school and killed 3 construction workers and burned several homes to the ground.
    I’m sure we will hear very illogical comparisons in the aftermath of this accident, just as we did after Deep-Horizon, along the lines of “thank goodness it wasn’t a nuclear accident, then we’d really have a disaster”. This type of shameless redirection of the real dangers of fossil fuels is nonsense and must be put in its place.

    1. Jason Ribeiro wrote:
      I’m sure we will hear very illogical comparisons in the aftermath of this accident, just as we did after Deep-Horizon, along the lines of “thank goodness it wasn’t a nuclear accident, then we’d really have a disaster”.
      Fossil fuels accidents cause many more deaths per unit of energy than nuclear. But everyone knows that fossil fuel accidents cause only mild death, while nuclear accidents cause severe death.

    2. @Jason — The loss of human life is tragic, no matter what the cause. And to the extent that this could have been avoided, I trust that whatever actions are needed to determine what went wrong those will be put into place.
      CNBC ran a series of comparisons on DeepWater Horizon, one of which is here:
      I bring this up not to excuse BP or Big Oil, but to lend some perspective – like what Rod has done with the tritium leak at Vermont Yankee. The Gulf appears to be recovering much faster than Prince William Sound following Exxon Valdez, probably due to water temperature and the massive inflow of water into the Gulf from the Mississippi River (which I have walked over … at the headwaters at Lake Itasca in Minnesota).
      If we only generate 1% of electricity from oil but 20+% from natural gas and natural gas is used for cooking and heating (is that the likely application in the San Bruno area?), then the goal ought to be to replace natural gas for those applications and use nuclear-generated electricity. Of course, we need to overcome the ban on new nuclear power plants in California to get there.

  4. I am a little surprised that this story is old news already. Good thing for the NG industry that crazies are talking about burning the Koran.
    We can only imagine the hoopla if the fire was at nuke plant.
    To be sure, NG is statistically one of the best ways to provide energy. For all of you that use random accidents arguments to support nuclear power it sounds the same as the anti-nukes, you are idiots.
    As Meridith suggests it will be interesting to know what the root cause is. If it is a weak corporate safety culture should we look at other things PG&E does?

    1. If you just count the Deaths caused by NG explosions it sure seems to me that the “general public” is far worse off (say an order of magnitude) living near any NG pipe line than living near a nuclear power plant, even Chernobyl. The same could also be said for the “utiulity worker” working for NG as compared to a nuclear power plant.

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