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What caused deadly San Bruno fire? Investigations underway

As firefighters continued their search through the stricken area for victims, federal investigators indicated that they would be looking at a range of contributing factors – including maintenance records, pressure conditions, and human factors.

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A ruptured gas pipe that caused a massive explosion is shown beside a burned car in San Bruno, Calif. After a gas line ruptured and a towering fireball roared through the suburban San Francisco neighborhood, killing four people, officials were trying to determine what led to a blast that raised questions about the safety of similar lines that crisscross towns across America.

Eric Risberg/AP

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Investigators have begun efforts to find the cause of a fatal natural gas pipeline explosion and fire in San Bruno, Calif., that destroyed dozens of homes.

Four people were killed in the blast and fire and at least 50 people were injured, according to local public safety officials.

As firefighters continued their search through the stricken area for victims, federal investigators indicated that they would be looking at a range of potential contributing factors. These include the pipeline's maintenance record, pressure conditions in the 30-inch-diameter line at the time of the explosion, and at the warning systems the line's owner – Pacific Gas and Electric – had in place to alert technicians of problems in the line.

Officials also will be looking into the role human factors may have played, ranging from training to PG&E's response time in addressing complaints some residents say they lodged about gas they smelled before the blast.

It didn't take long to spot what could become one hefty piece of evidence in the blast.

At a briefing Friday night in San Bruno, Christopher Hart, vice-chairman of the National Transportation and Safety Board, described coming across a large portion of the gas-transmission-line pipe in a street "some distance" from the large crater where the blast occurred.

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