Recent underground power line explosions in San Francisco raise concerns, safety assurances remain

(UI) — A San Francisco neighborhood has experienced significant problems as a result of an underground explosion and subsequent fire for at least the second time in less than three months.

The most recent incident took place on Saturday night in Pacific Heights. More than a dozen windows were broken in the area by at least one significant explosion.

David Chang, a resident of San Francisco, told ABC 7 News, "It literally sounded like a car bomb or something, and it literally knocked me to the floor."

The failure of underneath equipment, according to firemen, caused an explosion and fire that night of July 8 as recounted by PG&E. However, PG&E did not provide an update on what caused the incident while crews were working beneath the roadway on Sunday.

A manhole fire is visible in the video as Guneet Kaur's Tesla is seen resting just on top of it.

"I did hear that this started after a manhole exploded under a Tesla, then I heard two other manholes exploded and windows were blown out of the building right here," Catherine Stefani, a San Francisco District 2 Supervisor, told ABC 7 News.

Despite the fact that firefighters claim no one was wounded, this marks at least the second "underground vault explosion" in San Francisco in less than three months. A case in April caused power outages that lasted several days for certain companies in North Beach and the Financial District.

The explosions were really powerful in both instances.

Although only 20% of electrical lines are underground worldwide, that percentage is rising and exceeds 50% in San Francisco, which has a dense population.

An advocate for underground power delivery, Mike Beehler of the Power Delivery Intelligence Initiative reacted when he heard about the two incidents.

The issue, J.R., is that these systems are outdated; they have been in place for 30, 40, or even 50 years, and equipment ages. They can fail tragically and come to the end of their lives, according to Beehler.

PG&E said in a statement to ABC 7 News that the source of the explosion and subsequent fire was still under investigation. Witnesses described multiple explosions that damaged the Tesla and broke at least a dozen windows in the area.

"Utilities do a great job in maintaining reliability. They try to do preventative maintenance but sometimes things just happen and they'll happen and it causes an explosion like it did in San Francisco," Beehler told ABC 7 News.

Despite the two accidents in San Francisco in less than three months, according to Beehler, underground power distribution is safer than above ground lines.

Here is the full statement PG&E issued to ABC 7 News on July 10:

"The safety and security of our employees, assets and facilities are our highest responsibilities. On Saturday evening, PG&E received reports of a loud noise and smoke from a manhole in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. PG&E crews responded and confirmed an underground transformer failure and smoke from an underground vault at 2143 Pacific Ave., San Francisco. 154 customers lost power around 9:15 p.m. Saturday and were safely restored at 2:30 a.m. Sunday. The root cause is under investigation."

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