If the serpent in the earth was the enemy, fire was next.
After the shaking stopped, the first words uttered in apartments and tract houses and mobile homes were frequently the almost hysterical command, “Turn off the gas!” Often, the order came too late.
Severed gas lines hissed from cracked foundations. Then, all it took was a spark for the flames to appear. Once started, they consumed everything in their path while firefighters, deprived of water by the quake, watch hopelessly. A hundred mobile homes burned to fragments of hot metal in three Sylmar parks alone.