I drive through this tunnel a few times a week...
And I usually drive through it on Thursday evenings...in a silver Mercedes.
Glad I didn't last Thursday. I'm glad there were no injuries. They didn't indicate why the Benz caught fire, either.
Caldecott tunnel reopens after fire
ORINDA - All three Caldecott Tunnel bores have reopened, according to the California Highway Patrol and the Moraga-Orinda Fire District.
A vehicle fire in the center bore briefly forced the shutdown of Highway 24 in both directions.The 6:35 p.m. fire sent smoke billowing out of the center bore.
A three-firefighter crew from Moraga-Orinda entered the center bore on foot with oxygen tanks to search for victims. No one was injured.
Oakland firefighters traveled into bore 1, or the southernmost bore, stopped and entered the center bore through passageways to fight the fire, said Moraga-Orinda Battalion Chief Stephen Healy.
Traffic stopped behind the burning car, a silver Mercedes-Benz.
Latrese Harris, 47, of Walnut Creek, was on her way home when she stopped about a half-mile behind the Mercedes-Benz.
A motorist jumped out of a nearby vehicle, told others a car was burning and to get out of the tunnel. Other motorists then exited their cars and began leaving the tunnel.
Many were afraid because they knew about a fatal 1982 fire in northernmost bore, but most were calm, helpful and considerate, Harris said.
"I wouldn't want to live through that again," said Harris, whose silver Toyota Rav 4 was the last vehicle out of the center bore. She had left her lights on, and so she needed a jump start. "I'm taking BART tomorrow. There was nowhere to go inside the tunnel."
Firefighters reached a pregnant woman in traffic whose water broke, and she was taken by ambulance to a hospital, said Moraga-Orinda fire spokeswoman Tonya Hoover.
Bore 3 reopened for westbound traffic about 7:35 p.m., and bore 1 reopened for eastbound traffic a short time later. The center bore reopened by 8:20 p.m.
No one has been injured. The driver of the car that burned, a silver Mercedes-Benz, escaped. The tunnel's ventilation system helped significantly to vent smoke from the center bore, Healy said.
Oakland and Moraga-Orinda firefighters cooperate closely to respond to calls in the bores, mainly vehicle and truck fires and accidents.
From 165,000 to 175,000 motorists go through the tunnel daily, compared with 110,000 in 1981, according to Caltrans. More than 275,000 vehicles might use the tunnel during special events.
Seven people were killed in the 1982 fire. A drunken driver's stalled car, a speeding bus and an overturned gasoline tanker combined to cause a superheated, toxic fire inside the Caldecott, one of the worst tunnel fires in U.S. history.
In 1982, inadequate monitoring, lack of changeable message signs or signals at the entrance and inside, and lack of communication between tunnel personnel and motorists contributed to the severity of the fire, the National Transportation Safety Board later concluded.
Today, signs warn drivers to slow for accidents. Wiring has been added for cell phone communication, and more cameras allow operators to respond to emergencies quickly.
The biggest improvement came about five months after the fire, when Gov. Edmund Brown signed a measure banning tankers carrying hazardous materials from the tunnel for 22 hours a day. They now can pass through only from 3 to 5 a.m.
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