Written by Bea Karnes
Maura Guerrero can see evidence of the San Bruno gas pipeline explosion every time she looks in the mirror—the brown spots on her cheeks are the result of burns she suffered in the gas-fueled fire as she rushed to get her two children to safety.
She lost her home to the fire, along with her cat, X. Three years later she still feels the pain of being unable to save her defenseless feline, “He was a great cat and I really miss him.”
Monday marks the third anniversary of the PG&E gas pipeline explosion. The blast and resulting inferno ripped a hole in the Crestmoor neighborhood. Eight people died, more than 60 were injured, 38 homes were destroyed, and another 100 damaged.
The neighborhood today is still struggling to recover. It’s dotted with new homes, bark-covered lots where homes once stood, and shells of houses in various stages of construction.
Meanwhile, the California Public Utilities Commission has completed its investigation of the disaster and recommended a staggering $2.25 billion in fines and penalties against PG&E, which owned and operated the 30 inch pipeline that ruptured.
San Bruno city officials say that’s not enough. They want a $3.8 billion penalty. “We remain firm in our belief that the only way to prevent future accidents is by penalizing PG&E to the maximum,” Mayor Jim Ruane said last month. A final decision is expected this fall.
Just two weeks ago, PG&E opened a state-of-the-art gas pipeline control center in San Ramon, as the utility rushes to modernize its infrastructure.
Back in the Crestmoor neighborhood, Maura’s new home is nearing completion after a year of construction. As she makes plans for the future, she reflects on what she has lost, “I lost so many things I can never replace. Mementos from my childhood, and my mother, and my children's childhood. All our wedding pictures.”
Still, Maura is clear about what’s most important, “I am grateful we are alive and well.”
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