Nightly News | September 10, 2010
>> reporter: i'm kristen welker. almost as quickly as flames engulfed this neighborhood, questions arose. how could a disaster of this scale happen?
>> a huge fire and smoke everywhere. we just ran for our lives.
>> reporter: investigators are hoping to gain access to a gas pipe that's 40 to 50 years old.
>> we are constantly worki ining every day to make sure we are maintaining the integrity of that system.
>> reporter: it would not be the first time aging systems played a role in tragic accidents. in 2009 , two and a half tons of metal fell from the bay bridge in san francisco during rush hour. there was only one minor injury but traffic was disrupted for months. in 2007 this eight-lane steel bridge in minnesota collapsed during rush hour traffic, killing 13 people and injuring dozens more. the same year that a steam pipe exploded near manhattan's grand central terminal , another close call .
>> it is probably just a failure of part of the infrastructure.
>> reporter: no surprise to the nation's top engineers.
>> we have been applying a patch and pray system to our infrastructure.
>> reporter: in a report card issued last year, america's infrastructure got a cumulative ranking of d. one in four of the nation's bridges were found to be structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. poor road conditions contributed to 14,000 deaths. aging water pipes discharged 10 billion gallons of raw sewage.
>> we have become complacent and allowed this infrastructure to deteriorate.
>> reporter: this neighborhood just the latest warning sign of aging systems that can be as close as our own backyard. investigators say it could be a long time before they determine the exact cause of this latest disaster. and it will likely raise a lot of questions nationwide. brian?
>> kristen kwelker and miguel almaguer reporting from the scene . thanks to you both.