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Police concerned with looting after California gas fire

By the CNN Wire Staff
Police check out the San Bruno, California, home of Dante and Jody Ravelo, whose house wasn't burned but was robbed.
Police check out the San Bruno, California, home of Dante and Jody Ravelo, whose house wasn't burned but was robbed.
  • Immediately after the fire, police set up a perimeter around evacuated homes
  • They also had roving patrols in the affected areas
  • One couple reported that they were robbed

(CNN) -- Dante and Jody Ravelo returned to their home, which they had evacuated because of the massive gas-line explosion in San Bruno, California, to find that their house survived in good shape. Then, they noticed they had been robbed.

From the outset of last week's fire, which resulted in the evacuation of 376 homes, police were concerned with the possibility of looters taking advantage of the precautions, said Mike Matteucci, public information officer for the incident.

"They (police) were definitely concerned because of the homes being evacuated," he said. "They immediately set up a perimeter around the whole neighborhood."

Still, the Ravelos found themselves victims of a burglary, they told CNN affiliate KRON.

"We were really glad to find that our house was in relatively good shape, then all of a sudden I hear this, you know, Jody's already screaming about how we've been robbed," Dante Ravelo said. "From there it was just a really awful feeling."

Video: San Bruno homes looted
  • San Bruno
  • California
  • Fires
  • Crime

Among the items stolen were Jody Ravelo's wedding and engagement rings, which had stones reset from her grandfather's ring.

"It was an heirloom," she said.

The couple had both celebrated birthdays and an anniversary last month, and the burglar took off with gift cards and gift certificates, along with jewelry and other small items, they told KRON.

What they were most worried about, however, was that their passports and Social Security cards were also taken, items that could be used for identity theft.

Despite the Ravelos bad fortune, San Bruno police said that there have not been many reports of robbery or looting.

One person was arrested the night of the fire, Matteucci said.

The suspect was spotted by a roving police patrol even as the fire burned, riding a motorcycle in the affected area. The rider took off from police and led officers on a 15-mile chase down the freeway that ended in the city of San Carlos.

"As he was riding his motorcycle he was throwing stuff out of his pockets," Matteucci said.

There were no other looting arrests as of Wednesday.

There were, however, four people arrested for trying to apply for fake driver's licenses in an attempt to fraudulently obtain benefits from the San Bruno Local Assistance Center.

According to police, the four individuals tried to apply for licenses with addresses located inside the affected area. Residents impacted by the fire could qualify for up to $1,500 in benefits from area retailers.