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Residents say Gas Leaked Weeks before Explosion Killed 4, Injured 52 and Destroyed 38 Homes

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September 10, 2010

Residents of the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno, CA say they reported the smell of gas weeks before the horrific explosion of a natural gas pipeline on Thursday that killed four people, injured 52 others, destroyed 38 homes and damaged eight more.

"Every day after work, I would smell the heavy smell coming from the gutter and sewer," resident Tim Guiterrez told CNN.

According to the Associated Press, a 30-inch Pacific Gas and Electric pipeline ruptured about 6:30 pm Thursday evening, sending huge fireballs into the night sky, emitting extreme heat and billowing smoke. The blaze quickly spread over 15 acres, consuming homes, vehicles and everything in its wake.

The City of San Bruno released that fire units from nine San Mateo County cities and over 200 law enforcement personnel assisted the San Bruno police and fire departments personnel with fire and traffic control. Fire and police activities continued through the night and early morning hours.

A water main destroyed by the explosion hampered firefighter’s attempts to control the fire by forcing them to string hoses together to carry water from far away. Four firefighters are among the injured.

Guiterrez and other neighborhood residents told NBC News that they smelled gas in the area for weeks and reported the danger the gas utility company. A PG&E representative said the company is checking into the complaints.

"Right now, we haven’t got confirmation about that, but we have records that we are going back right this minute to try to confirm what exactly those phone calls look like and when they occurred, and we will report back as soon as we know something," PG&E president Chris Johns said.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the federal agency in charge of natural gas pipeline incident investigations, has dispatched a four-man Go Team to the site of the explosion. PG&E has vowed to cooperate fully with the NTSB.

“Though a cause has yet to be determined, we know that a PG&E gas transmission line was ruptured,” the PG&E website said. “If it is ultimately determined that we were responsible for the cause of the incident, we will take accountability.”