By Carla Thomas
Fire shot through the sky, and the massive explosion was felt for miles. Some thought it was an earthquake, and others thought it was a major plane crash. The quiet middle class neighborhood of Crestmoor Canyon was blazing after a gas transmission line explosion that resulted in 4 deaths and 38 homes destroyed. The pipeline was owned by PG&E.
“We could see the flames from my neighborhood across the Bay,” said Van Pleasants of Oakland’s Maxwell Park. Some of his neighbors videotaped the fireball across the Bay as they watched in amazement.
By midnight TV vans were moving out of San Bruno after producing over five hours of live news on the scene. The smoke scented air was eerie as people wandered in and out of the area.
“We now have two shelters set up at Veteran’s Memorial Recreation Center and a nearby Senior Center so we are directing people to those areas,” said San Mateo County Sheriff Detective Sean O’Donnell.
Chris Wagner, representing Oakland Red Cross’s Disaster Services was on the scene. “There’s been an out pouring from the community,” he said. “People brought food and blankets and many supplies. I’ve seen about 4-5 African American people tonight.”
According to Ruby Kamaka, who developed the American Red Cross Bay Area’s mental health program, “It’s just as important to take care of people’s mental health as well as the physical during emergencies.”
When the disaster hit, Michael and Marie Strane of San Diego were in town producing a music video. “When we heard the news we came to volunteer because we represent the Community Emergency Response Team,” said Michael. “Since we happened to be in the Bay Area, our kids came to help, too,” he said, referring to 16-year-old Elijah and his 15-year-old sister Aliya, who helped distribute supplies to evacuees.
“We also helped during the San Diego firestorms,” stated Marie. “This is really unfortunate, but we are trained to utilize all skills and being able to help in crisis is really the most rewarding.”
For information on community donations, contact www.redcrossbayarea.org or www.salvationarmyusa.org.