The fire started at 2:15 a.m. at a construction site at Fifth Street and Mandela Parkway, adjacent to the BART station. At its peak, there were 100 foot flames and was so hot that it melted paint and plastic on nearby cars.
A security guard reported seeing three people near the wood-framed structure just before the fire broke out. Investigators are searching for signs of arson and an ATF investigator is helping pinpoint the exact cause of the blaze.
The fire was extinguished within a few hours. No one was hurt. Sixty-four firefighters responded to the fire. The structure, which was a senior center under construction, has been red-tagged.
The suspension of BART service between the East Bay and San Francisco proved to be quite a headache for commuters who were forced to find alternate routes into the city. Ferries and buses were packed and there were more cars than usual on the Bay Bridge.
BART workers spent Thursday replacing porcelain insulators that were cracked by the heat of the flames. They also worked on communication and other electrical cables that may have been damaged.
BART Board of Directors member Bob Franklin reported on his personal Twitter account that the electrical third rail was bent during the fire but was reverting to its original shape as it cooled.
Just after 3 p.m., test trains began making runs over the damaged section of tracks. A BART spokesperson said the trains would make about eight runs before the OK would be given to simultaneously open both directions of tracks.
The West Oakland station reopened for normal service and full transbay service resumed at 3:48 p.m. Trains were running slower than usual and with less frequency. Inspections at the West Oakland station went well overnight and they will run trains as normal Friday morning.
AC Transit says it made more than 117 extra trips to and from San Francisco Thursday in response to the service disruption.