Breaking News, 1969: A House Explodes in Bernal Heights

The remains of 1540 York after the explosion in 1969

The remains of 1540 York after a gas explosion in 1969

KPIX Eyewitness News report from October 23rd 1969 by Ben Williams in San Francisco featuring the explosion of a residential house, caused by a gas leak. Includes interviews with witnesses, the fire service and views of property wreckage.

Sad to say, we can’t embed the video with the raw footage, but you can watch it here.

Local TV news coverage of this mundane 1969 disaster in Bernal Heights comes to us today by way of the excellent San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive,  hosted by San Francisco State. This segment is a story about a bad day in the neighborhood, but one which has since been largely forgotten.

The house in the story was on the on 1500 block of York, just up from Cesar Chavez (Army) Street. On October 23rd 1969, it blew up. An occupant  —  they were “a Spanish family,” a neighbor says — was taken away unconscious.

The neighbor is freaked out.

The neighbor was visibly rattled by the experience. But a street-savvy fire chief restored order, matter-of-factly, because a house blowing up due to a gas leak is just one of those things he deals with sometimes in the city. How bad was the damage? “At least $30,000,” he estimates.

1969 Fire Captain discusses York Street House Explosion

The SFFD battalion chief discusses the explosion

The location of the blast, at 1540 York, is now occupied by a two unit apartment building built in 1985. The neighborhood has moved on.

The new home at 1540 York

Yet that’s also the reason why you should check the original video footage from that day in 1969.

Then explore more of the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive. But clicking the link may lead to hours of viewing locally produced video from the collections of KQED, KPIX, KRON, KTVU as well as topics such as the San Francisco State Students Strike and the Native American Occupation of Alcatraz. Addictive stuff.