VIDEO: A gas explosion in a San Francisco neighborhood shot flames into the air Wednesday and burned five buildings, sending panicked residents and workers fleeing into the streets.
Utility crews put out the fire about three hours after private construction workers cut a natural gas line, igniting the towering flames, San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said. Authorities initially said five workers were missing, but the entire construction crew was found safe, and no other injuries were reported.
Officials evacuated several nearby buildings, including a medical clinic and apartment buildings, Hayes-White said. Vehicles on a busy street got rerouted as authorities cordoned off the bustling retail and residential neighborhood.
Firefighters worked to keep the fire from spreading while Pacific Gas & Electric crews tried to shut off the natural gas line.
“It’s complicated,” Hayes-White said of stopping the flow of gas through the damaged pipe. Though she later acknowledged that “as a fire chief and a resident, yes, I would have liked to see it mitigated.”
The fire began around 1:20 p.m., apparently by crews working on fiber-optic wires, Hayes-White said.