I was hurrying home to San Francisco after 7PM yesterday to catch the first night of SFEMF. The radio programming was interrupted with an news update of a large fire in San Bruno, a town just south of San Francisco, near the airport. Specifically, it was near Skyline Blvd (CA 35) and not far from I-280, the highway on which I was traveling. Instantly, I thought it was wildfire out of control on a hillside. It is California, after all. The report then said that there were “several blocks in flames” and people hearing a large explosion and injured people being brought to local hospitals. This was something different. And I was on 280 heading north directly towards it. The smoke was visible above the ridge from miles away. As I approached the ramp from 280 to highway 35, it was closed off and covered with emergency vehicles. Beyond it was the column of smoke and the fire itself in the hills off to the left. The smell of the smoke and burning was intense, even inside the mostly enclosed car. A steady stream of cars jamming the streets down from the hills.
I know the area along Skyline Blvd moderately well. It is a high ridge between the Pacific Ocean and the suburban towns south of San Francisco, dotted with wooded hillsides, ocean views and surprisingly dense suburban developments, many of which had that iconic 1950s and 1960s look. I had explored the area when looking for a new home 2007 and I would sometimes escape into the hills along highways 35 and 1 as breaks when I worked in the area. I wondered if the houses and neighborhoods I had seen were among those now in flames.
After the concert, I came back online to get more information. I checked both our local newspaper online, where I found out it was caused by a huge gas line explosion, saw a map of the neighborhood affected, and saw horrific photos and videos. I simultaneously checked #sanbruno on Twitter. The location not a neighborhood I knew, but it could have been. 40 homes and 4 deaths officially. My thoughts are with those who lost their homes or loved ones.
And in the aftermath some attention turns to lost and missing pets as well. I read both about animals being rescued and about people who knew their pets were lost. In the immediate aftermath, a local PetCo accepted pets that were found during the emergency phase. The Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA have been involved, helping residents find lost pets, taking in animals that survived and were found. You can visit their site to find out more, and also how you can contribute. I did see one of their trucks when dropping off emergency donations on the way to work on Friday…once again driving on 280.
Finally, a few small bits of good news, including a man who able to go back and rescue his cat.