San Bruno begins filling in crater caused by fire


Crews in San Bruno have started filling the crater left by last September's natural gas pipeline explosion. The work started a Tuesday afternoon after a solemn ceremony.

Mayor Jim Ruane tossed the first shovel-full and he was followed by a long line of neighbors – survivors who had a personal score to settle with the hole.

"We did survive and putting the dirt in the hole is kind of like we beat the hole and we beat the blast and it's very, very important," San Bruno resident Carol Piunti said.

Eight people did not survive and 38 homes were destroyed when the 30-inch steel natural gas pipeline exploded. The 3,000 pound, 28-foot section was thrown 100 feet from where it had been buried for 54 years and the giant blowtorch that followed roared for an hour and a half.

Tuesday, in a ceremony organized by the city, residents got a hands-on moment to face the place where the fiery monster emerged and try to bury some of the pain along with it.

"It felt good because I know the pipe is gone and the hole is going to be filled, so I'm really happy about that; it's a little bit of closure, a little bit," San Bruno resident Maria Orrante said.

Once the crater is filled and the road rebuilt, there is still unfinished work in Sacramento and Washington -- to change the way pipelines are inspected and maintained. Because of its age, the San Bruno line was exempted from the most rigorous and expensive testing. That has now changed in California, but there are still about 150,000 miles of untested lines across the country.

"It's too late for San Bruno and there's some talk back east of, 'Oh, it's too expensive,' they should measure the expenses in lives, not in footage," Ruane said.

The city says it will be a couple of weeks before the work is finished. They still have to put in a new sidewalk and a fence along the canyon.

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