Calif. explosion highlights hazards we can face

Responders must be familiar with gas pipeline locations and treat them with respect

Sometimes people, including fire and emergency services personnel, forget that hazardous materials are omnipresent throughout our communities.

It is all too easy to become complacent when dealing with outside gas leaks or other hazmat incidents we've come to regard as commonplace.

Thursday's incident in a neighborhood near San Francisco, when a gas line ruptured, reinforces the fact that no emergency is routine, along with the importance of pre-incident planning and proper training for safely responding to hazardous materials emergencies of all types.

It also underscores the need for continued fire service involvement in regulatory proceedings around the siting and identification of hazardous materials facilities, including pipelines and other transportation routes.

The reality, given the quantity and variety of hazardous materials transported through them without any problems, is that pipelines are a relatively safe method of transporting products we use every day.

Just the same, responders must be familiar with their locations and treat them with respect, as this incident demonstrates beyond a doubt.

For more information about pipeline safety, visit the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) at

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel — FireRescue1's editorial advisor — is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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