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News outlets tour San Bruno blast site -- a possible 'crime scene,' authorities say

September 11, 2010 |  1:56 pm

At San Bruno City Hall about 11:45 a.m. Saturday, Police Cdr. Noreen Hanlon told reporters: “This is an active death investigation. We are still trying to preserve the crime scene.”

She and other officers then accompanied a busload of reporters, news camera operators and photographers on a 20-minute tour of the devastation on the 900 block of Glenview Drive. Several houses were marked with orange tags indicating they were uninhabitable.

The white two-story house at 951 Glenview was gutted, the wooden front door agape. Debris was strewn across the entry, still flanked by two white tiger statues. Pieces of charred roof lay in the driveway across two burned cars, an Audi sedan and a convertible, that had been spray-painted with the numbers 42 and 43. At nearby 970 Glenview, the picture window lay in the lawn.

Signs placed in yards warned burned-out residents to beware of unlicensed contractors.

As reporters looked on, a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. worker in a hard hat hung from a telephone pole as he cut a wire retrieved on the ground by two crew members.

Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, pointed out the 30-inch pipe that had exploded Thursday in a plume of fire. The force of the explosion blew the 40-foot-long pipe, which had been buried four feet below a sidewalk, 100 feet away. Knudson said the agency would be remove the pipe and excavate for other pieces.

“I don’t see us finishing this before tomorrow,” he said, adding that NTSB workers typically remain at an accident scene for five to 10 days.

Knudson said officials still did not know what caused Thursday's explosion. NTSB workers were measuring fractures in the pipe and planned to analyze pieces under a microscope in their laboratories.

Skip and Kathy Bianucci, who run a janitorial business from their house on Plymouth Way, had remained there Thursday as the fire raged but evacuated Friday and stayed with relatives. On Saturday they made the rounds of a shelter, City Hall and the command center at the Bay Hill Shopping Center in a vain effort to learn when they could return to their residence.

“We have to get our payroll going,” said Skip Bianucci, 63. “People are depending on us for their paychecks Monday.” At one stop, he said, Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado “kept assuring us they’re trying everything in their power to help us.”

The Bianuccis planned to claim a voucher from PG&E to stay at a local hotel Saturday night.

Kathy Bianucci’s father, Charlie Cresci, 79, a former deputy chief of the San Francisco Fire Department, and his wife, Debbie, 55, also planned to sleep at a hotel.

“You never think this is going to happen in your own backyard,” Debbie Cresci said. Even if they returned to their place on Windsor Court, Charlie added, “there’s no power or gas.”

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske