Demolition set to begin in San Bruno neighborhood

September 22, 2010 7:29:30 PM PDT
It has almost been two weeks since the massive San Bruno explosion and fire rocked the Peninsula community. Residents on Wednesday got their last chance to sift through the ashes that were once their homes. Thursday, the cleanup begins.

Crews spent Wednesday finishing prepping the site for the onslaught of machinery. Back hoes, front loaders, ash containers will dominate the site for the next six weeks. The plan is to start in the hot zone and work out from there. First crews will have to remove close to two dozen charred vehicles just to get the equipment into the neighborhood.

San Mateo County officials say there are 34 home sites that are slated to be cleared, but there could be more sites later.

Wednesday, water trucks continued to water down the ash. The site is still considered toxic.

Ambient air monitors suck air into filters that will be sent to a lab for testing. So far, 20 percent of the burned site has been evaluated and is considered safe. There is concern that once they begin moving the ash around that could change.

"We know that the material contains levels of metal, potential asbestos, all sorts of other material and we want to make sure that crews handle this material so it is not going to blow off the property and become a public health problem," San Mateo County Health Department spokesperson Dean Peterson said.

While crews at the site mapped out a cleanup strategy for Thursday, residents who lost their homes met with health insurance agencies for help.

"I was talking to the guy from Kaiser about family plans and he gave me this brochure that way I can explain to my family how it works," San Bruno resident Jose Albarado said.

With Thursday marking two weeks since the explosion, some residents believe the demolition is a sign that it is time to move forward, while others still feel say the tragedy is still too fresh.

"What we saw and what we all went through was just, I don't know, I don't know when that healing process begins, so like I said, we're still numb," San Bruno resident Melanie Parkin said.

The demolition is expected to take four to six weeks and cost $30,000-$40,000 per site.

Eight people remained hospitalized after the fire.

Of those, one victim was released from the hospital Tuesday night. Four remain in critical condition, including three in the burn unit at St. Francis hospital.

The Blood Centers of the Pacific says the Bay Area has responded in a big way to requests for blood donations for the burn victims. So much so, that the weekend following the San Bruno Fire, they received three times what they normally get.

There will be another push for blood donations coming up in two weeks.


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