BART resumes service; fire investigation delayed

June 15, 2012 7:19:45 PM PDT
Friday was a delay-free day for BART, which was a relief for commuters a day after a fire near the West Oakland BART caused a shutdown of the Transbay Tube.

A team of city and federal investigators are itching to get inside the fire scene, but the structure still needs to be shored up before investigators can safely work inside the building.

A building engineer and two agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were the first to enter the building since the blaze was put out Thursday.

But investigators won't likely be able to start working inside until sometime next week. That's because the fire burned so hot, it damaged the concrete first floor of the five-story apartment building that was still under construction.

There are parts that possibly could collapse inside, so the building engineer was determining what areas are safe and unsafe for the investigators, according to Oakland Fire Department Battalion Chief Lisa Baker.

Even after Friday's assessment by a private building engineer, fire investigators will not get full access to what remains of the building until parts of it are shored up for safety.

"That re-shoring process could take anywhere from three to four days. It's a large platform, we want to make sure we don't miss anything," said ATF special agent Helen Dunke.

That means the scene will continue to be cordoned off. The property owner has hired a security team to make sure no one gets in and messes with anything that could be key to the investigation.

And the ATF says it will continue gathering information from around the property, including details from witnesses. The agency said it has already started interviewing people.

A security guard at the property reportedly noticed three people near the scene just before the fire started. Any further information from nearby residents could be useful.

"If there were people in the area the morning of the fire began, our fire investigators would love to speak to them," Baker said.

The ATF is going to bring in another building engineer Monday. The ATF was called in by Oakland Fire because the federal agency has access to specialized tools like specially trained dogs and high tech labs. But none of those resources have been brought out yet because they haven't been able to get in to the fire scene to figure out what they're going to need.

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