Peninsula Firefighters Now Armed With PG&E Pipeline Info

MENLO PARK (KCBS) – Risk assessments of the Pacific Gas and Electric pipelines that run beneath several peninsula communities have been incorporated into maps the Menlo Park Fire Protection District uses for training and response, said Chief Harold Schapelhouman.

The utility provided local governments and public safety agencies around the Bay Area with maps of its pipeline system after the deadly San Bruno pipeline explosion and fire last September.

Schapelhouman said PG&E maps that charted 12 natural gas distribution lines within his jurisdiction of Atherton, Menlo Park, East Palo Alto and unincorporated San Mateo County led to further questions.

“How old are these pipelines? How big are these pipelines? That really goes into a threat assessment that we would do,” he said.

KCBS’ Anna Duckworth reports:

The district pressed for accurate information about the operating pressure of each line, measured in pounds per square inch or psi.

Schapelhouman said there had been a huge discrepancy between the information the utility provided prior to last September about pressure on the San Bruno pipeline and what investigators uncovered after the explosion.

“We were told that it was up to 200 psi. It certainly was not. It was up to about the 400 as we understood later,” he said.

The additional information PG&E provided in May will eventually be coupled with similar information from water and sewage companies in the district’s jurisdiction.

Because the San Bruno explosion destroyed part of an overlapping water main, firefighters had to truck in water from other locations to battle the inferno that consumed 37 homes.

“It may make the difference between what decisions a commander in the field will make, or what he didn’t make because he didn’t know,” Schapelhouman said.

Schapelhouman said a new response plan that overlays all the water and gas pipeline maps could specifically call for the deployment of water tenders or tankers in the initial phases of a similar event.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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