Fire-stricken BART opens for evening commute

I have a couple of friends that commute into the city via BART from the East Bay.

When I saw the first of them post on Facebook this morning that a fire halted their morning commute, I thought it was some kind of over-dramatization.

What can I say, I have some dramatic friends.

But when footage of the fire started popping up during commercial breaks during US Open coverage, I realized there was nothing overly-dramatic about it.

There was, indeed, a giant blaze that shut down the West Oakland station, forcing Transbay commuters to resort to shuttle buses to get into San Francisco.

After an all-day closure and feverish repair work, BART resumed Transbay service late Thursday afternoon, just in time for an onslaught of afternoon commuters.

Inside Bay Area reports the fire started shortly after 2 a.m. Thursday morning. A security guard at the Seventh Street construction site of a soon-to-be — or maybe not so soon-to-be — five story retirement home said he was ambushed by three men and “forced to flee” the scene, the guard’s employer told reporters.

When the guard saw flames begin to rise from the construction site about 15 minutes later, he hurried back to the site to call 911. Oakland fire and arson officials are still looking into exactly what started the fire.

The fire was hot enough to melt traffic signs a few blocks away, and scorched close to 400 feet of electrified BART tracks outside the West Oakland station.

Buses from Fruitvale, MacArthur, 12th Street, 19th Street, and West Oakland BART stations were set up to shuttle commuters over the Bay Bridge to San Francisco. Lines for the buses snaked around street corners, leaving some waiting over an hour for a seat.

Ferries from the East Bay carried four times their normal amount of commuters, causing so much web traffic that it crashed the service’s site.

BART officials had previously said that they would be opening one track at a time, but changed their approach during the day to reopen service on both tracks.