The placement of a PG&E gas line is now under investigation by the state utilities watchdog. This comes after a construction company's road grinder hit the shallow gas line in northeast Bakersfield causing a massive fire.
Charred leaves and a gravel road are all that's left after the fire that burned down a road grinder after it hit a gas line on Monday.
The construction company operating the road grinder, Pavement Recycling Systems, said the gas line was only four inches below the surface. The standards for the three-inch steel pipe is supposed to be 26 to 30 inches.
"It's a major concern because you can't have explosions go around like that residential neighborhood," said Dustin Peterson, who lives in northeast Bakersfield.
The PG&E gas line is now being investigated by the California Public Utilities Commission. Preliminary findings show the construction company Pavement Recycling Systems did have a valid USA, meaning they checked before they dug.
"Valid USA means that they have called 811 which is a nationwide service to have the utility in that area, this being PG&E, come and mark the underground utilities," said Katie Allen, Spokesperson for PG&E.
PG&E said the pipe is old, circa 1938, but beyond that the company couldn't comment.
"As this investigation is ongoing I can't speak about details from the incident on Monday," said Allen.
Pavement Recycling would not speak on camera nor let us record their phone conversation.They claim they had no idea the line was that shallow.
The county says it didn't either. Although Craig Pope, Director of the Kern County Roads Department, could speak on camera, He confirmed six months ago PG&E had been asked to lower some shallow gas lines in the area. The county was told PG&E did that.
"Then you think, well somebody really screwed up," said Linda Hendricks who lives in the northeast Bakersfield neighborhood.
Hendricks remembers PG&E working on her side of the street, but not on the side where the gas line was cut.
"I did ask PG&E when they were working on this side of the street, what about the other side of the street," said Hendricks. "They said 'oh, we did that' and I said that is very strange because I'm here all the time and I never remember them doing anything on that side."
According to the county, the paving project that started Friday is on hold until the roads department can determine it's safe to proceed.
For now, Pavement Recycling is left with $500,000 damage to its machine.
PG&E says even if the construction company got a valid USA, they have a responsibility to hand dig before beginning work to locate a pipe depth.