San Bruno pipeline explosion victims begin to rebuild

May 10, 2011 6:11:28 PM PDT
Groundbreaking began Tuesday for the first home to be rebuilt since the PG&E pipeline blast ripped apart a San Bruno neighborhood last September. Out of the 38 homes destroyed, 24 homeowners plan to rebuild with PG&E's help and 11 others plan to sell. The others are still undecided.

Nancy and Bob Hensel are the first San Bruno fire victims to begin rebuilding on the spot where they have lived since 1974.

"When I thought about it, this was our home the kids grew up here and that's when we decided we'd come back," Nancy Hensel said.

Bob was home alone when Line 132 exploded into flames. Nancy had left the day before with her daughter for a trip to Europe. Bob is a retired San Bruno Fire Department battalion chief, so he knew instantly he had to get out.

"One car in the driveway was already on fire, I could see the eaves smoldering already," Bob Hensel said. "My wife's car was in the garage; I opened the garage door manually and escaped in her car."

Eight of their neighbors were killed and 38 homes destroyed, including theirs.

"The ones that lost their lives, that's the worst part of this," Nancy Hensel said.

The Hensels were on the fence about rebuilding until PG&E committed to re-routing the pipeline out of their neighborhood.

They lost everything in the fire, including their two beloved cats Zoe and Buckwheat and priceless family heirlooms.

"It's like a dead-end, all the stuff stops here in my family, nothing to pass on and you feel like you let them down in that way," Bob Hensel said.

The Hensels say this is not the worst they have been through and they look forward to moving in, again, in about a year.

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