Officials from the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department will be taking a close look at gas lines throughout the area in the wake of the disaster in San Bruno on Thursday night.
The local investigation into pipeline safety here comes as the American Red Cross is encouraging financial donations instead of food and clothing to assist people displaced by Thursday's fire in San Bruno.
Donations can be made online at redcrossbayarea.org/donate, by calling 1-888-4-HELP-BAY or by mailing a check to: American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter, 85 Second St., Eighth Floor, San Francisco, CA, 94105.
There were 37 homes destroyed on five different streets in the Crestmoor Canyon neighborhood surrounding the site of the blast, as well as eight others with major or minor damage, according to city officials. The Red Cross has provided services to several hundred people in the wake of the disaster, and the organization is asking for financial donations because of the time-intensive nature of handling other donations.
Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Chief Jim Miguel said his department has already begun a review of pipeline safety here.
"We looked at our hazardous materials plan," he said. "We have, both in Pleasanton and Livermore, natural gas transmission lines."
He said those are 500 pounds per square inch (psi) lines, with one not too far from downtown Pleasanton.
"It runs mostly south, but the main line is coming through east and west just south of the Alameda County Fairgrounds," Miguel said.
Livermore has two lines, but one is south of the city and doesn't run through populated areas.
As of this morning, officials suspected that a gas line was to blame in San Bruno, where an explosion destroyed dozens of homes and killed at least four people, with flames as high as 80 feet in the air.
For now, Miguel said the fire department is waiting on PG&E's autopsy of its lines to determine the specifics of what happened. He said the apparent rupture could have come from "a dozen things," such as a manufacturing problem or a shift that could have occurred some time ago.
"I would imagine that within three or four days, they'll have an estimate about the age of these lines," he said, adding that PG&E is likely dealing with dozens of communities that want to know if a similar explosion is possible.
"When they get that estimate we'll be able to talk about the age and the construction and the depth of the lines through (Pleasanton and Livermore), and have a better sense of whether we should be concerned. Let's keep in mind that these pipes have been underground in Northern California for a long time," Miguel said. "They need to check the age of these lines."
The Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department sent one engine as part of a five-engine strike team to the disaster in San Bruno, along with a strike team leader and assistant strike team leader. Nine cities in San Mateo County alone dispatched vehicles to assist in the six-alarm fire, which ravaged a residential neighborhood.
Should something similar happen locally, Miguel said, "We'd be in much the same situation." We'd be calling people from a long way away."
But he said Pleasanton is prepared to respond to a comparable situation, with emergency plans in place for both Pleasanton and Livermore. He said the fire department, police departments and public works department are all trained on what to do in case of a similar event.
In San Bruno, volunteers are busy sorting food and organizing clothing by size and sex, said Red Cross spokeswoman Sara O'Brien.
"You've got to sort it, you've got to wash it and then people have to find out if it fits them," O'Brien said.
Monetary donations allow the Red Cross to provide people with credit cards that they can use to purchase items they need and that fit them, O'Brien said.
Blood banks are also full at this time, she added.
"(The blood banks) are overwhelmed," O'Brien said. "Donate over the next few weeks. Burn patients need longer-term treatment."
The Red Cross, along with the city of San Bruno, San Mateo County and the state, are now preparing for the "second phase" of the relief operations, said Red Cross spokesman Steve Sharp.
"This is going to last for some time. Financial assistance is going to be the most important thing that Red Cross ends up doing, so we're trying to put money in the bank to prepare for the second phase of this operation," Sharp said.