Tunnel smoke spurs BART delay

BART halted all trains traveling between The City and the East Bay for close to an hour Tuesday morning after a driver spotted a cloud of smoke in the eastbound tunnel between Montgomery and Embarcadero stations.

Within minutes, firefighters determined there was no fire and BART trains were back up and running after about 40 minutes. Hundreds of confused commuters, however, were left stranded, while others hopped on trains to retrieve their vehicles and shared cabs across the Bay Bridge.

Shortly after 9 a.m., the driver operating an eastbound Dublin/Pleasanton train saw sparks and a large cloud of smoke in the tunnel between Montgomery and Embarcadero stations, San Francisco Assistant Fire Chief Art Kenney said.

The driver notified BART officials, who immediately shut down the two stations and service between SanFrancisco and the East Bay. The driver backed the train into Montgomery Station, which was then evacuated to allow firefighters to survey the scene.

San Francisco Battalion Chief Jim Lambrechts said the smoke had dissipated by the time firefighters arrived, although a faint odor lingered. He said the smoke could have been caused by a small electrical glitch. A fire department spokeswoman said it could have been caused by debris on the tracks, such as paper.

The firefighters walked through the tunnel and checked the ventilation system before declaring the situation safe, Lambrechts said. Both BART and Muni light-rail cars, which also stopped in the underground Market Street tunnel, resumed service before 10 a.m.

The fire scare, however, caused chaos among commuters who were late to work and school because of the lockdown.

David Smith, who lives in Danville and commutes to The City for work, said he was told to disembark at MacArthur Station in Oakland after the trains halted. He picked up another train headed toward Pleasant Hill to retrieve his car, but the train only went about 50 yards before the driver announced it was changing directions, Smith said. “Nobody knew where to go. Some looked for taxis, others were looking for hotel shuttles to convince them to give them a ride into The City,” Smith said.

Smith finally caught a train into San Francisco and was given a voucher for his ride home because he was forced to train hop, spending more than usual on the commute.

arocha@examiner.com

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