The Day After (aerial view, no audio)
By morning the devastation was clear. Dozens of homes had been damaged or destroyed.
San Bruno Fire Chief Dennis Haag described the fire zone this way, "It looks like a moonscape in some areas."
The death toll stood at four Friday afternoon with four other people critically injured with burn wounds. The most critical were taken to the premier burn center in the Bay Area which is St. Francis in San Francisco.
The explosion happened near Skyline Boulevard and San Bruno Avenue. People who were home at the time had no warning. Many said they had minutes if not seconds to get themselves, their loved ones and pets out before a wall of fire and a hail of asphalt rained down on their neighborhood.
Emergency officials lowered the number of destroyed homes from 53 homes to 38 home by Friday daylight. They said seven more homes were significantly damaged and dozens more were damaged in one way or another, but still standing. Aerial pictures from the scene showed many homes gone to their foundation. Others were missing roof tops. Dozens more vehicles that were parked on the street were also destroyed. Witnesses said the cars and homes exploded from the heat from the massive fire ball.
The area damaged by the fires and explosion spread across 15 acres.
They said it would be late Friday afternoon before they could make a complete search of the fire zone as they search for possible victims. Cadaver dogs were on the scene looking for bodies.
On Friday morning, state officials said along with the death and critical injuries, 52 people were treated for smoke inhalation and burn wounds. Four firefighters were also being treated for smoke inhalation.
A huge crater was left at the initial explosion site and a huge pipe was seen nearby on a flattened street.
Marla Shelmadine, who lives on 1131 Fairmont Drive, said the blast escalated down her street, destroying one house at a time in quick succession. She said she got out of her house with her two cars and her pets, and did not know if her home was destroyed or not.
Other neighbors said they saw the street rip apart and ran for their lives from a huge wall of flames. One man jumped into his car and drove through the flames. He said the explosion was followed by a hail of asphalt falling from the sky as the pipe line ripped through the street. His bumper was fried by the time he got to safety, but he was safe.
PG&E President Chris Johns said a steel gas pipe ruptured about three feet underground. He said his crews had not been able to determine the cause of the rupture because they can't get close enough. The initial site of the blast is now a huge crater filled with water.
Johns said at a 9 a.m. news conference the company has heard news reports that some residents smelled gas in the area before the blast and had reported that to PG&E.
"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," John said.
Smoke from the fire traveled miles away. One person in Sunnyvale said he could smell the fire at his business by 8 p.m.
Emergency crews set up a staging area in the parking lot of a nearby Lunardi's supermarket. Dozens of homes were in the area of the fire and hundreds of people were forced to evacuate. Even by early afternoon Friday it was not clear when people could get back into their homes.