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Evacuees of San Bruno fire wait, wonder what will be left of their ravaged neighborhood

September 9, 2010 | 10:18 pm

With flames continuing to burn in San Bruno, many of the evacuees at the nearby Bayhill shopping center had no idea Thursday night whether their homes would be standing when they finally return to their fire-ravaged neighborhood.

Doug Kunze, who lives on Claremont Drive, said he was watching a football game on television when he heard an explosion and thought it was an earthquake and saw fire. The cable went out and the water went out.
“The fire was huge. It was 100 feet in the air,” he said. “Something was continually feeding it. It go so hot you couldn’t get closer than a block.”
He said he and his family left on foot and were not allowed to go back and get their car.
“I’m sure we can’t get back tonight,” he said. “I’m not sure we have any place to go back to. So many homes were destroyed. The neighborhood will never be the same.”

Marla Shelmadine lives on Fairmont Drive, four houses down from the big explosion. “We just got out in time with the animals and two vehicles after hearing the explosion," she said. "We went outside. It was like an inferno. If we stayed any longer, our skin would have melted.”


Shelmadine was talking in the Bayhills Starbucks with other people from the neighborhood, bemoaning the houses that were destroyed and the neighbors who were hospitalized. She has three dogs and a cat.

“I got them by the tail,” she said. “By the time we got to the garage, it was filled with smoke. The house three doors down was in flames.”

She said her house is gone.

Dan Grassis, who lives on Crestmore Street, said he has no idea how his house is. “I’m hoping OK,” he said.
He said he heard several booms and opened the garage door and saw flames and smoke. “It was like something you see in a war movie."
He said he saw firetrucks and equipment from as far away as San Francisco and San Jose. At nightfall, a sheriff’s truck drove up and down the street, ordering people to leave by loudspeaker. Law enforcement officials canvassed the neighborhood, knocking on every door.

Click on the following link to see a Times photo gallery of the San Bruno Blaze.

 -- Maria L. La Ganga

Firefighters battle house fires after a massive explosion that rocked a neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif. Credti: EPA/Peter DaSilva