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State of Emergency Declared in San Mateo County

Emergency response has shifted from suppressing the blaze in San Bruno to treating the wounded, searching for survivors, and surveying the damage. Four people are confirmed dead, 38 homes are destroyed, and more than one hundred are damaged.

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Updated 10:20 a.m.

Emergency response has shifted from suppressing the blaze in San Bruno to treating the wounded, searching for survivors, and surveying the damage.

Four people are confirmed dead, 38 homes are destroyed, and more than one hundred are damaged.

San Bruno Park District Schools are closed this morning.

KQED reporter Peter John Shuler is at Capuchino High School in San Bruno.

He reports that teachers are taking head counts and that a makeshift grief-counseling center has been sent up. About 12 counselors are on site to support students.

School officials say that the families of three students lost their homes, but that everyone in the families are accounted for and doing well.

The Red Cross has indicated that cash donations are the most useful to them.

Late last night Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado declared a state of emergency for the fire, allowing more money and help to reach to fire victims.

The fire began just after 6 pm PDT when a PG&E natural gas transmission line was ruptured, the company said in a statement.

"It looks like a bomb went off," said KQED's Scott Shafer. "There are homes leveled. There are trees that are just now stumps because they have burned, in some to the ground."

A loud explosion thundered through the neighborhood, and many thought that a plane had originally crashed, Shafer said.

"Many people of course are were trying to get to safety, get out of their homes and figure out what had happened, whether it was an earthquake or a plane crash," Shafer said. "Many people went outside to look and felt these tremendous flames."

Neighbors gathered the streets behind police lines and waited to see what was left of their homes, Shafer said.

Firefighters were on the scene from throughout the Bay Area, and the Red Cross created a shelter at the Veterans Memorial Recreation Center.

Julio Barajas was there with his wife, four children, mother, sister and brother.

"I was outside watering my lawn when I started hearing this noise that really sounded like an airplane engine. A very low airplane engine, it vibrated my whole body," Barajas said. "Then I heard one more loud noise then there was an explosion. I was facing toward it and then I saw a big fire-ball going up and it just turned into really black smoke."

Barajas evacuated his family after the San Mateo's sheriffs office called.

People who were injured largely went to four Bay Area hospitals: Kaiser Permanente, Seton Medical Center, San Francisco General Hospital, and Saint Francis Memorial Hospital. Some victims in critical condition were sent to Saint Francis where they have a burn center.

Early in the evening Seton Medical Center put out a "triage code" call for local medical professionals to come and help. Kaiser Permanente turned away doctors and nurses from other facilities and felt that they were adequately staffed, according to KQED's Amanda Stupi.

Hospitals have depleted their blood banks treating people who were injured in the fire. They are calling for blood donations, especially from people with Type O Negative blood that can be given to anyone. Make an appointment online at http://www.redcross.org/where at a center near you.

The California Public Utilities Commission is investigating the fire and explosion and had an investigator on the scene last night.

PG&E released a statement later in the evening confirming that a gas line had ruptured.

"If it is ultimately determined that we were responsible for the cause of the accident, we will take accountability," the PG&E said in a statement.

The utility was also at the scene to turn off the main, and restore power to the region.

View a map of the fire, shelters, and hospitals.

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