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Returning residents draw together in San Bruno destruction zone

September 12, 2010 |  2:42 pm

On Glenview Drive, just a few houses down from the blast zone, the homes are still neat and clean, the lawns nicely manicured, and unscathed cars line the street, in the same spot since Thursday. The only sign that something went wrong are the neon green tags on each home that read "lawful occupancy permitted," the pair of pink flip-flops abandoned in the street and singed leaves on the trees.

But just down the hill, a wide barricade blocks a massive crater and a row of homes of which little is left but the fireplaces.

Three days ago in the early evening, residents here ran out of their homes after hearing an explosion, and confronted a wall of fire so high it covered the nearby hills.

On Sunday, as residents were allowed back to their homes for the first time since the blast, they approached with caution and then gathered down at the barricade for a minute to survey the damage. They shook one another's hands and hugged, some introducing themselves for the first time. Someone proposed a neighborhood party or some kind of get-together for the block -- to get to know and to support one another.

"It's funny," said Dennis Costanzo. "Now we're getting to know each other. The feuds and all the petty arguments are gone."

He stood in the street where others were gathering and introduced himself to Jim Mar, who lives across the street. Both were home when the blast occurred, and Mar told Costanzo that he caught him on video just moments afterward, shouting desperately at arriving firefighters for help.

Three houses down, Emil Mathews and his wife, Lisa, pulled up to their home near the destruction zone.

After looking inside to make sure everything was still in place, Emil Mathews put up a ladder and climbed to the roof to get a first view of the devastation.

"I feel very blessed that our house is still intact,"  Lisa Mathews said, "but six houses down, everything is gone."

-- Paloma Esquivel in San Bruno