San Francisco Chronicle
Gas leak shuts roads, BART stations
A leaking gas cylinder — being transported from the ruins of a deadly explosion and fire in San Francisco’s Sunset District — shut down busy roads, on-ramps, and BART service between the Colma and Daly City stations for hours Friday while emergency crews determined how to safely remove the leaking tank from a box van.
Shortly before 9 a.m. Friday, two police evidence technicians were traveling in a white San Francisco city van near the intersection of Junipero Serra Boulevard and John Daly Boulevard in Daly City, immediately north of the BART tracks — en route to the city’s evidence storage area — when they heard a thump in the rear of the van and smelled gas, according to emergency-response officials. They jumped out of the van, opened the door and found one canister — believed to contain propane or butane — leaking and making a hissing sound.
San Francisco Fire Department spokesperson Capt. Jonathan Baxter said at a news conference that the incident was “directly related to evidence collected at a fire incident at 1934 22nd Ave.” earlier that morning. The fire, which started after a large explosion Thursday morning, killed one person and burned the house to the ground.
The cylinders and other materials in the van had been deemed safe for transport, Baxter said, but were treated as potentially hazardous when the cylinder began hissing.
Emergency officials shut down the two streets for 500 feet in either direction and BART was halted, said Craig Wittner, assistant fire marshal for the North County Fire Authority. There are no homes, businesses or buildings in the immediate vicinity of the van, he said.
Hazardous response teams and police and fire officials were on the scene along with San Francisco Police Department bomb squad, which deployed a robot to get images of the tanks and determine their conditions, Wittner said.
The leaking canister was capped and the van and its contents judged safe to take to the evidence center in San Francisco, Baxter said. He said the van was taking the most direct route from the Sunset District to the evidence facility. Investigators know the contents of the canisters, he said, but are not divulging them while the probe continues.
BART resumed service and reopened the Colma and Daly City stations at about 2 p.m. The roads were reopened later.
Public safety officials said the shutdowns were necessary to ensure public safety.
“We know it is an inconvenience to drivers and BART riders, but better safe than sorry,” Wittner said.