SF Utility Company Under the Spotlight Following Gas Line Explosion

San Francisco, CA – A Construction crew apparently working on fiber-optic wires accidentally cut a natural gas line, causing a massive explosion on Wednesday in the city.

According to a USA Today report, flames shot above the rooftops of nearby three-story buildings, including a medical clinic and apartments, sending panicked occupants running for safety. No-one was injured in the explosion.

San Francisco Fire Chief, Joanne Hayes-White, said crews put out the fire about three hours after the incident.

Firefighters worked to keep the fire from spreading, while Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) crews tried to shut off the natural gas line.

According to the report, PG&E spokesman, Paul Doherty, stressed that the workers who cut the gas line are not affiliated with the utility company.

PG&E is under heightened scrutiny over its natural gas pipelines. A pipeline exploded under a neighborhood south of San Francisco in 2010, killing eight people and wiping out a neighborhood in suburban San Bruno.

The utility company was ordered to pay $3 million for a conviction on six felony charges of failing to properly maintain the pipeline and the utility remains under a federal judge’s watch in that case.

Meantime, NPR reports that PG&E – which filed for bankruptcy last month in the wake of billions of dollars in potential liability after two years of wildfires – could shut off power to more than 5 million customers when extreme weather conditions are ripe for wildfires to break out, the company said Wednesday.

It’s an expansion of the company’s previous power shutoff program, which only let the company turn off power to about half a million customers.

The company told the state’s public utilities commission that to address wildfire risk, “shutting off power will likely be necessary and may need to be performed more frequently due to the extreme weather events and dry vegetation conditions.”