Gas line explosion displaces residents
Inner Richmond residents lost their homes and most of their belongings in the three-alarm blaze triggered by a gas leak near the intersection of Parker Avenue and Geary Boulevard on Wednesday.
Firefighters contained the blaze more than two hours after it ignited when PG&E was able to shut off the gas line. Luckily, no lives were lost in the inferno.
According to PG&E spokesperson Teresa Jimenez, the fire engulfed Hong Kong Lounge II, a popular dim sum restaurant in San Francisco’s Richmond district, at about 1:20 p.m. Wednesday. The Michelin-rated restaurant was under construction when a gas line got clipped, spewing gas and soon after 30 foot flames into the sky.
The fire spread to five buildings, including residential units — one of which was home to Deon Brown II. Everything in a one-block radius had to be shut down for the investigation.
Jimenez said the fire started when a third-party construction crew struck a 4-inch plastic distribution line that was already marked by PG&E workers on Jan. 28. Verizon has been identified as the third party whose contractor was directly involved with the accident.
“The Feb. 6 fire in San Francisco’s Jordan Park neighborhood is tragic for the people impacted by the incident and resulting power outage,” Verizon spokesperson Heidi Flato said. “Verizon is grateful for
the brave efforts of all the first responders who ran to the crisis.”
The Verizon vendor MasTec is the contractor that was working on the site during time of the accident. MasTec is cooperating with investigators to determine the cause of the incident and all work has been halted until further notice, according to Flato.
MasTec President John Higgins offered his condolences in a public statement: “On behalf of all of us at MasTec, we want to express our deep concern for those affected by the gas line rupture earlier today. We are working in close coordination with the public safety officials and understand that no injuries or fatalities were reported in connection with the incident.
Hong Kong Lounge II also issued a statement online, informing the public that all guests and employees at the restaurant during the fire were accounted for and safe. In addition to thanking the community for its support, ownership wrote that it does not foresee the business reopening any time soon.
Approximately 2,500 PG&E customers lost power from the fire, which has since been restored. Jimenez said workers shut off the flow of gas at 3:36 p.m. Some 300 customers will be without gas until the damage is repaired.
At a press meeting held near the incident, San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said a private contractor doing fiber-optic work caused the fire when workers hit a gas line.
“At this point there are no injuries associated with it,” Hayes-White said. “We have cordoned off and set up a perimeter on a block on each side of where the incident is. All those buildings were searched to make sure residents were alerted and evacuated.”
The Huckleberry Youth Clinic is one institution that had to be relocated due to the explosion.
Higgins identified the two subcontractors working under MasTec as Fiber Works, Inc. and Kilford Engineering. Construction companies are required to call 811 before they begin digging in an area to know what is below the surface, which is a “standard procedure,” Jimenez said.
Hayes-White said the the buildings affected by the blaze were businesses and residences.
“We anticipate some displacement and we have some reunification sites,” Hayes-White said. “One is at Mel’s Diner, up the street.”
The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption provided shelter for Richmond District residents displaced by the fire, but no one checked in that evening according to a tweet from KRON 4 reporter Gayle Ong.
*Correction: It was previously reported that Derwin Deon Brown II, former ASI freshman representative, lost his home in the fire that happened on Wednesday, Feb. 6 near the intersection of Parker Avenue and Geary Boulevard. Another fire happened the same day in Daly City, where Brown lives. Xpress regrets this mistake.