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As you all know by now a community in the Bay Area City of San Bruno was rocked by a pipeline explosion around 6:45 PM local time.

I first learned about it via twitter, of all things, and immediately went to the news.  There was no coverage yet, so we listened to our radios and heard early reports of an explosion.

Then the tweets started to mention a plane crash and word spread quickly.  As the news began to show aerial shots it was clear from first glance there had not been a plane crash, nor a gas station on fire, as some residents were reporting.  Clearly one of the methods of coping with the complete destruction of your neighborhood by fire is to think of something you saw in a movie.

As we watched on TV from the firehouse, the SFFD responded an entire alarm assignment to assist in what was going to be a full night of firefighting.

Many communities came together as one force for good today.  City, Town, State and Federal teams, as well as private contractors from the local utilities, ambulance companies and certainly law enforcement and highway patrol all had their own duties, but to see how quickly resources were being mobilized made my head spin.

On twitter, I’m suddenly being RT’d (Retweeted) by folks from outside the area trying to get news.

I was asked what kind of plane crashed and if the gas station was still burning.

As fast as resources gathered to confront the gas pipeline explosion and aftermath, rumors and RTs of RTs were spreading half truths and guesses from all over the world.

Indeed the first images and descriptions came via social media, but we must remember to take into account who is giving us the information and where they may have come by it.

It is easy to hit that retweet button when you see something neat, but when it includes information that can not be confirmed or does not cite a reference, confusion can mount.

As I’m writing this at the firehouse, we still have 3 engines, 2 trucks and a Battalion Chief at the scene.  We were listening to the channel for awhile and even heard the crash truck from the nearby airport report they were full with 4500 gallons and ready to help.

I’ll be passing along what information I have, but am very interested to meet some of the responders at next week’s Tak Response Conference.  Imagine a conference specifically about inter-agency co-operation and training happening so close to such an event.  The information fresh in the minds of all persons involved will be an amazing learning opportunity for us all.

If I can, I want to get some of them a Seat at the Table on Wednesday the 15th and get their side of what happened.

Stay safe,

HM

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4 Comments

  1. Totwtytr September 10, 2010 4:29 pm

    I’m glad you’re safe, I knew SFFD would be going on mutual aid, but didn’t know if that would include you.

  2. Totwtytr September 10, 2010 4:29 pm

    I’m glad you’re safe, I knew SFFD would be going on mutual aid, but didn’t know if that would include you.

  3. Lauren September 20, 2010 5:14 pm

    Reguarding early reports that it was a plane crash…I saw the thing blow from the top of the hill on San Bruno Ave. I’m a soldier, and though I haven’t been deployed, I’ve seen a lot of training videos involving bombs. My first thought was that it had to be a bomb. When the fire didn’t stop after a second, it became obvious that it wasn’t and I found myself having a hard time getting my brain to accept what my eyes were seeing without having a context to put it in. I wasn’t too keen on the plane crash diagnosis either, but hearing some kind of context for what was going on actually helped a little, even if it was wrong. I don’t think you meant to sound condescending with your comment, but please remember that it’s human nature to try and put new experience in the context of previous experience, even if previous experience consists of a movie or 9/11.

    That said, I do want to thank all the firefighters who responded. The speed of the response was amazing. So was the improvisation and sheer doggedness I saw in getting water on the fire, despite the difficulties and sheer size and ferocity of that monster. I was amazed to see so many houses still standing when I got home. It seemed like a pretty heroic response from my end.

  4. Lauren September 20, 2010 5:14 pm

    Reguarding early reports that it was a plane crash…I saw the thing blow from the top of the hill on San Bruno Ave. I’m a soldier, and though I haven’t been deployed, I’ve seen a lot of training videos involving bombs. My first thought was that it had to be a bomb. When the fire didn’t stop after a second, it became obvious that it wasn’t and I found myself having a hard time getting my brain to accept what my eyes were seeing without having a context to put it in. I wasn’t too keen on the plane crash diagnosis either, but hearing some kind of context for what was going on actually helped a little, even if it was wrong. I don’t think you meant to sound condescending with your comment, but please remember that it’s human nature to try and put new experience in the context of previous experience, even if previous experience consists of a movie or 9/11.

    That said, I do want to thank all the firefighters who responded. The speed of the response was amazing. So was the improvisation and sheer doggedness I saw in getting water on the fire, despite the difficulties and sheer size and ferocity of that monster. I was amazed to see so many houses still standing when I got home. It seemed like a pretty heroic response from my end.

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