Passengers evacuate BART train due to fire in Orinda

During Wednesday's evening commute a semi-conductor box caused a fire on a BART train in Orinda and passengers had to evacuate.
October 23, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
At the Orinda station on Wednesday night, a fire under a train forced the evacuation of a Pittsburg/Bay Point-bound train during the evening commute.

Trains were running through the Orinda station without stopping and a bus bridge was set up between the Orinda and Lafayette stations.

The train remained on the tracks at the Orinda BART station for hours Wednesday night because a 1,200 lb. semi-conductor box melted off while they were fighting the fire and became jammed under the train. Firefighters used saws to cut it into pieces and crews said it could be a while before they get the damaged train off the tracks.

None of the passengers seemed to realize the BART train was on fire until they stepped off at the Orinda station just after 6 p.m.

"I came out and you could see the smoke and it was pretty dark. And as you got closer, you could smell like a burning rubber," said BART passenger Sean Fetterly from Antioch.

One passenger shot a photo of smoke coming from the train as passengers got off. John Rowe shot video of the smoke that people witnessed driving along Highway 24.

"There was a small amount of flames underneath the carriage," said witness Tom McCormick.

The 10-car train was immediately evacuated.

"Everybody was calm. There wasn't anybody who looked panicked. There was no rushing," said BART passenger Aileen Coutte.

Firefighters had to use a ladder truck to get to the flames.

"They just started spraying foam, and they would stop spraying, a little bit of smoke would come out, dissipate, and it would come out again, and they'd spray it again," said Rowe.

BART says the smoke came from a semi-conductor box that shorted out and was found dangling from under the train, but it's not sure exactly when the problem started.

"I think I smelled it around 19th Street. I thought it was just the brakes," said BART Passenger Steven Lin.

It was also a headache for drivers because the incident backed up traffic on the main road that connects the two sides of Orinda. That road reopened just before 11 p.m.

ABC7 News spoke with a BART spokesperson and asked when they'll be able to move the train. She said they'll move it when it's safe to do so and said it is not related to a reenactment held earlier in the day of an accident that killed two workers on the tracks Saturday.

At this time there's no indication if it will affect the rush hour.

Photo courtesy John Rowe.

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