Peninsula News

San Bruno neighborhood inches toward recovery

Saturday, September 10, 2011
San Bruno fire survivor receives a hug at a memorial service held on Friday san bruno memorial A ruptured gas pipe that caused a massive explosion is shown beside a burned car in San Bruno, Calif. CPUC memorial for victims of the San Bruno gas explosion. Also pictured are Jackie and Janessa Grieg who died in the disaster.

One year ago, a San Bruno neighborhood erupted in a fireball. In the moment, no one knew what hit them, but when the smoke cleared, eight people were dead and 38 homes destroyed by a PG&E natural gas pipeline explosion and fire.

It was 6:11 p.m. when a 27-foot, 3,000 lbs. section of 30-inch steel pipe came blasting out through the street from four feet underground.

Building permits have been issued or are in the works for all but 13 of the destroyed homes. San Bruno City Manager Connie Jackson thinks the neighborhood will be mostly rebuilt in two to three years.

"Somebody was just asking me earlier, 'Well, aren't you disappointed that it seems so slow?' I think I would say the opposite is true," Jackson said.

It was a quiet day in the neighborhood Friday, with neighbors marking the day in their own different ways.

Nellie and Bill Bishop took out the white linen for 14 friends they met one year ago. That's when Todd Thalhamer and his recovery crew came to clean up what was left of the Bishop's devastated neighborhood.

CalRecycle are the ones who come in right after the fire trucks leave.

"We decided a year ago that we would get together on this day and have a remembrance of our own," Nellie Bishop said. "These people, we all became friends through this whole thing, so good things come from bad, so they're coming for lunch today."

The recovery team was here for a month removing the rubble of 38 homes burned to piles of ash. It's slow-going but construction is underway on several of the destroyed and damaged homes.

"When you put this much work and this much effort and boots on the ground as we did the disaster becomes a part of us and for us it's kind of like closure, to see the community back and see the rebuilding," Thalhamer said.

As much as victims would like to forget what happened, today will be a day of remembering and a day of grieving for the eight people who died. A stranger brought flowers and one neighbor tied a single small pink ribbon on the fence at each empty lot.

Today is not just another day for those who lived through the disaster.

"It brings memoires back, so close to 9/11, how can you forget these bad tragic incidents," neighbor Gary Georgi said.

Georgi says he's thankful to be here, and healthy one year later.

"In the beginning, you wake up at night, and about three months of this, now I'm sleeping, more relaxed; it's home again to me," he said.

San Bruno officials say eventually, there will probably be some sort of memorial in the neighborhood.

PG&E is supposed to cap off the pipeline and put it out of commission sometime in the next couple months.

Community gathers to remember San Bruno victims

Friday evening, friends, family and members of the San Bruno community gathered at Skyline College to commemorate the first anniversary of the pipeline explosion.

Over 100 people attended the service, which included a moment of silence and the reading of the names of the eight victims.

CPUC dedicates memorial to san Bruno victims

Friday morning, a bench at the California Public Utilities Commission Building in San Francisco was dedicated to all of those who were lost in the San Bruno disaster. A Weeping Willow tree next to the bench was dedicated to Jackie Grieg and her daughter Janessa. The tree was similar to one that grew in their home garden.

Jackie and 13-year-old Janessa died in their San Bruno home on Sept. 9, 2010. Jackie's husband and another daughter were not home at the time.

Colleagues, relatives and friends gathered in the courtyard of the CPUC this morning to dedicate the new memorial. They say it will help them in the healing process and encourage them in their work.

"The memorial will remind us of our duty and responsibility as members of this body of state regulators to put safety as our number one priority. The works we do here profoundly affects the lives of millions of people and can mean the difference between life and death," said Jackie Grieg's co-worker Pearlie Sabino.

Jackie Grieg worked as a regulatory analyst at the CPUC for 20 years. Her co-workers adored her and said it still doesn't seem real that she is gone. Her cubicle is still empty one year later. Some co-workers wanted to make the public aware that no tax money was spent on the memorial. It was paid for entirely by donations from CPUC workers.

Amy Hollyfield, Heather Ishimaru and Lyanne Melendez contributed to this story

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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san bruno fire, PG&E, san bruno, california public utilities commission, peninsula news
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