San Bruno residents mark 3 year anniversary of explosion

September 9, 2013 8:12:19 PM PDT
One community devastated by fire is vowing never to forget it. Monday marks the third anniversary of the pipeline explosion that destroyed a neighborhood in San Bruno. And this year, for the first time, the city is marking the occasion at the site where it happened.

PG&E has set up a $50 million fund to rebuild the infrastructure in the neighborhood, but of course no amount of money can bring back the people they've lost or heal the hearts of the people who loved them.

Three members of the Bullis Family died in their home three years ago. The city says the family hasn't decided yet what to do with the lot, so it sits empty.

"Rebuilding is going to occur and its doing that right now. But the emotional part is going to take years and for some people, they're never going to get over it. It's just a huge emotional drain," said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane.

The ferocious explosion and fire destroyed 38 homes, eight people were killed and many more seriously injured. Nancy Hensel was not home that night, but her husband and two cats were. Her husband made it out as the house burned down, but Buckwheat and Zoe did not. She knows where they would have been hiding.

"They were up under a bed with a platform. I just hope they didn't suffer. I think about that every day," said Hensel.

The flyers she posted all over the neighborhood in hopes of finding the cats were out in her front yard on Monday. She's got a couple new cats, one of them was found in the neighborhood right after the fire, and no one claimed him.

"His name is Dusty. It was either going to be Phoenix, Dusty, or Ashes," said Hensel.

Sixteen of the 38 homes are rebuilt and reoccupied; four more are about to be. Monday evening's memorial was about both mourning the dead and welcoming the old neighbors' home again.

But as Hensel has learned, there really is no going home again after what happened there, even when you rebuild trying to make it just like it was.

"It's not the same, my husband tried to rebuild it as it was, but you can't do that," said Hensel.

PG&E issued a statement on Monday saying since the accident, "We are focused on helping the victims recover and making our gas system the safest system in the nation. We still have more work to do, but we've made progress."

The San Mateo County District Attorney's Office and California Attorney General's Office were both looking into whether there might be a criminal case against PG&E, but they both decided against it. The feds still have two years to decide if they think they might have a criminal case.

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