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BART crews scramble to open Oakland-San Francisco line after fire

June 14, 2012 |  2:37 pm

BART tracks
A three-alarm fire in West Oakland left transit officials scrambling Thursday after flames damaged BART tracks, shutting down service to San Francisco and snarling the day's commute.

Thousands of commuters waited in lines stretching for blocks, hoping to catch a bus or ferry into San Francisco, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The Bay Bridge was also backed up for about two hours, the California Highway Patrol reported.

The commute has been virtually deadlocked all day, after a fire broke out about 2:15 a.m. in a senior housing complex that was under construction near BART's West Oakland station. Flames spread to neighboring buildings, power poles and elevated tracks nearby.

Authorities are investigating the fire as possible arson, officials said.

The fire damaged track insulators, communications cables, electrical cables and other trackside equipment, the transit agency reported. Crews were working to repair the damage and hoped to have full service restored by 4 p.m.

"This will depend upon work progress at the site," read a statement on BART's website. "As always, your safety is our top priority."

But whether the commute into San Francisco clears remains to be seen. Making matters worse, heavier-than-usual traffic was expected Thursday, as fans convened in the city for an afternoon San Francisco Giants baseball game and the opening round of the U.S. Open golf tournament.

Mike Schuveiller, of Reno, stood in line at an Oakland bus stop Thursday morning with two others trying to make it to the golf tournament. He told the Chronicle he's been to every U.S. Open on the West Coast since 1992.

"When you go to the Open, you stand in a lot of lines, and you have to be patient," he said. "It will work out."

Mary Hartlund spent her morning waiting in a long line at another Oakland bus stop, hoping to get to San Francisco.

"I don't see any buses," she told the Oakland Tribune. "It seems they don't have the number of buses going that they should. It's going to be a long day and then we have to figure out how to get back."


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— Kate Mather
Photo: Workers check damage to BART tracks near the West Oakland station after a fire below caused the shutdown of BART transbay service in Oakland. Credit: Kristopher Skinner / Bay Area News Group / Associated Press.