The problem was caused by a hydrogen tank at the AC Transit bus lot at 45th and San Pablo. Several blocks were closed to traffic. At 7:45 a.m., hazmat units were called in after someone reported seeing a ball of fire coming from one of these tanks. "One of the hydrogen tanks at the hydrogen fueling station at AC Transit began leaking hydrogen," Sgt. Fred Dauer said.
Several streets were immediately blocked off. Within minutes, Emeryville police began evacuating people from neighboring businesses. "We all evacuated and left things as they are in the office," Sage Wilk-Brown said. "They came pounding on our door and said we need to evacuate. So, I didn't get too much work done," Randy Shigio said.
Pixar's headquarters are across the street from the AC Transit yard. Around 10 a.m., employees were told they could go home and many did. Students of the Emery Secondary School were moved to the field behind the building while they waited for parents to pick them up.
AC Transit spokesperson, Clarence Johnson said there was no explosion, but acknowledged there were flames coming from the tank. "There was some flames at that point. We're trying to investigate why that occurred because that should not have probably occurred. Our best guess with that, at this point, is that might have been caused by some kind of static energy or electricity in the air that initially caused some flaming," he said.
Once the tank began leaking, the feeder line automatically shut down. At that point, the only thing to do was to allow the tank to empty out.