Some San Bruno victims vow never to return

September 9, 2011 8:00:30 PM PDT
Allen and Cindy Braun say they will never move back to the San Bruno neighborhood destroyed by the PG&E pipeline explosion. Instead, they plan start over in a new neighborhood. The Brauns agreed to speak exclusively to ABC7 about their lives, then and now.

"Sometimes we'd go over there for dinner, they'd come over here for dinner, all the neighbors over here on this side, we were all good friends," Allen Braun said.

That's the way it was in the Braun's San Bruno neighborhood just one year ago, before the deadly gas pipeline explosion that changed their lives.

"It's weird; I mean it's kind of surreal because it's so quiet, you know, and there's no houses," Braun said.

The 3,000 degree heat from a giant blow torch destroyed 38 homes.

"The air was on fire above our heads, you could just see all the air was just flames," Cindy Braun said.

Cindy still refuses to go back to the neighborhood.

"It was like your skin just flaying off and dripping, dripping, dripping down on the street," Cindy said. "I was thinking 'What is this dripping?'"

Cindy was burned on almost 70 percent of her body. Allen was burned over almost 40 percent of his body. The melted pores in their skin prevents them from sweating, which is a constant discomfort.

Like plastic shrink wrap, Cindy's skin is so tight she can't even bend her joints. She has a long future of skin grafts and surgeries ahead.

"So I walk with a waddle and kind of stutter stepping and I have to take stairs a certain way, I have to walk down sideways," Cindy said.

Cindy described the night of Sept. 9, 2010 for ABC7.

"All of a sudden it was like, whoosh all at once, like napalm, just all around," she said. "The whole house on fire, the fences, the neighbors' houses, just everything engulfed. And the air was on fire. My mom was upset and crying and my dog was even looking at me like, 'This is it.'"

With the house collapsing around them, they made a run for it. Cindy's 81-year-old mother, Elizabeth Torres, died in the driveway.

"I think there's sometimes when your mind doesn't want to remember something; I know I saw her, she started dying in the house," Cindy said.

Their dog, Lily, was never seen again. Since then, the Brauns have settled with PG&E, but they say the money will never buy back the peace they once knew.

"I knew all of my neighbors, I had keys to almost all their houses; we took in their papers, watched their pets and it was my Mayberry, and they took it," Cindy said.


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