• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Fire chief unaware of gas line before blast

Homes are being destroyed as a massive fire roars through a residential neighborhood in a south San Francisco suburb.

March 2, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
The fire chief of the department that responded to the deadly explosion south of San Francisco last year says he was unaware there was a large gas transmission pipeline running underneath his town.

San Bruno Fire Department Chief Dennis Haag spoke at a National Transportation Safety Board hearing Wednesday saying Pacific Gas & Electric Company, which owned the line, did not tell his department about it or provide a map with its location. They were only given generic training materials, Haag said.

"We didn't have the information, we didn't have maps of a pipeline going through," Haag said. "We have heard today there is a system we can access. I just didn't know about it, to be honest with you."

Haag said his department hadn't made use of a federal website that provides first responders with maps of gas lines in their community.

However, Haag said he wouldn't have done anything differently to fight the fire even if he had known about the pipeline.

When the pipeline exploded underneath a subdivision, firefighters in the small town south of San Francisco International airport mistakenly thought a plane had crashed.

Sixty-eight firefighters arrived on scene, but a giant fireball fed by escaping gas kept them from reaching many of the burning homes until the gas was turned off over an hour later, Haag said.

Dozens of homes were destroyed and eight people were killed, including five whom coroner's reports indicate were fleeing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.