Having been through the Oakland Hills Fire, my heart goes out to the people in San Bruno affected by this terrible fire. As of this morning it's 75% contained. By all accounts the fire began when a major gas line in the area ruptured - since the thing is still burning, it's likely to be awhile before we find out exactly what happened. But I have an uneasy feeling.
I've spent the last 30 years or so watching our entire country (diligent individuals excepted) ignoring the issue of maintenance. Cities, counties, states, the Federal government - nobody wanted to put any money into repairs. I have no reason to assume that PG&E was an exception to this trend. How long had that gas line been there? When was the last time anybody checked on its condition? We don't know. I hope we find out some day.
I know this: if we don't take care of our infrastructure, some day our infrastructure will take care of us. I drove an acquaintance home last night, over Oakland streets, and the pavement nearly sprang my shocks. The City of Oakland has an 80 year street repair schedule! The Oakland Hills fire was caused by an incompletely extinguished trash fire - negligence on the part of the burners and the fire department. This fire appears to have been caused by a different kind of negligence. How many other gas mains resemble this one? We don't know. I hope we don't find out the hard way.