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PG&E offers $100M San Bruno fire victims' fund

September 13, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
As San Bruno residents picked through the charred ruins of their homes Monday, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) announced a fund for victims of the deadly gas explosion. But many angry residents say the money won't bring back what they lost.Four days after the massive explosion, residents whose homes were red-tagged finally got to see their neighborhood Monday. But they were not allowed to leave the bus they were in. It was literally just a drive-by.

Amateur video taken near the rupture site just moments after the natural gas line exploded Thursday evening shows the incredible fire afterward. It's hot, ferocious and burning everything in its path.

Julio Locon suffered burns trying to escape.

"The first thing that I do is get out from my house, and I find out the fire is on top of my head," said Locon. "All my body is melted. So I pray and say, 'God, I don't want to die like this.'"

The force was so big, a piece of the pipe end up on the street.

Surveillance video from area retailers shows the chaos and confusion of customers.

At a local supermarket, customers can be seen looking in the same direction of the explosion, then scrambling to safety. Toward the front of the store, a mad dash for cover and safety.

San Bruno residents are upset such a huge transmission line is even down there so close to homes.

"It shouldn't have been there, or if they knew it was there when they were building Crestmoor II, they should have said 'You don't build Claremont,'" said evacuee Fred Dillen.

Residents are also upset at how things are being handled. They attended a closed-door meeting where Pacific Gas and Electric Co. announced a $100 million fund to help the city and victims get back on their feet -- up to $50,000 per household.

Some who have completely lost their homes want their lives back to normal as quickly as possible.

"We want to get on with our lives. We don't want to be at these meetings. We don't want group hugs anymore," said Bill Magoolaghan, a victim of the fire. "We want to see something substantial. We need a house."

"Money can't return lives, can't heal scars, can't replace memories," said PG&E President Chris Johns. "Some of the things that have been lost, you cannot put a value to. But there does come a time for healing and for rebuilding."

PG&E said the relief fund, which comes with no strings attached, is not an admission of fault, and does not bar residents from suing the utility company.

The investigation into the cause of the explosion continues. The line was last inspected in March. Now the California Public Utilities Commission has ordered PG&E to inspect thousands of miles of gas lines throughout the state.

If you would like to help the residents affected by the San Bruno fire, monetary donations can be sent to:

American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter
Attn: Development
85 Second Street, 8th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94105

You can also call (888) 4-HELP-BAY or visit the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter's website to donate online, http://www.redcrossbayarea.org.


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