Four-alarm fire in Portola district receives hour wait 

click to enlarge Ignition: PG&E took too long respond to a broken gas line that fuled a raging fire in the Portola district, Fire Department said. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
  • Ignition: PG&E took too long respond to a broken gas line that fuled a raging fire in the Portola district, Fire Department said.

Fire Department officials on Wednesday questioned the PG&E response time for a broken gas line that fueled a four-alarm fire Tuesday in the Portola district.

Fire Chief Joanna Hayes-White has requested a meeting with PG&E to determine whether there was a miscommunication in the response.

The fire, which began when a contractor working at a vacant home on San Bruno Avenue inadvertently ignited a gas service line, badly injured the worker and caused $1.4 million in damage to the empty house and a building next door. Three firefighters were treated for minor injuries. The contractor was in stable condition Wednesday at St. Francis Hospital.

The fire ignited about 3:45 p.m., according to Fire Department spokeswoman Lt. Mindy Talmadge. According to Fire Department and gas company notes, an emergency dig crew arrived about 4:40 p.m., 50 minutes after the initial call to PG&E. A PG&E supervisor arrived on the scene at 4:15 p.m.

“It took a long time for the dig crew to arrive, and that was bothersome,” Talmadge said. “We called PG&E and said, ‘We need an ETA, we need an ETA!’ and we didn’t get one.”

The gas continued to burn for 2½ hours because the flames prevented responders from reaching a shut-off valve. PG&E was able to shut off the gas at 5:40 p.m., Talmadge said.

PG&E spokesman Joe Molica said the dig crew, one of two such PG&E teams in the area, had been in Twin Peaks.

“We got there as quickly and safely as we could,” he said about the response time.

He said PG&E always follows up these types of incidents with a full investigation and will gladly sit down with the Fire Department.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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