ORINDA (CBS SF) — Traffic was flowing normally through the Caldecott Tunnel after a car fire in the tunnel’s first bore Friday morning filled the tunnel with smoke, prompted the evacuation of dozens of motorists and passengers and sent eight people to the hospital.
All lanes along eastbound Highway 24 through the Caldecott Tunnel reopened around 1:30 p.m., according to the California Highway Patrol.
The closure occurred after a 1988 Acura Legend caught fire and became engulfed in flames about two-thirds of the way into the eastbound bore of the tunnel near the Orinda side at 9:49 a.m., according to the CHP.
The fire filled the tunnel with smoke and clouded visibility. Motorists in the tunnel stopped their cars and about 50 people evacuated through the bore’s Oakland entrance with the help of firefighters, Oakland fire Battalion Chief Lisa Baker said.
Seven children and one adult were sent to local hospitals to be treated for smoke inhalation as a precautionary measure, authorities said.
Moraga-Orinda firefighters closed an emergency traffic gate to prevent motorists from entering the smoke-filled bore.
Firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze in about 30 minutes, and it took about 5 minutes to clear the bore of smoke using enormous fans facing toward the tunnel’s Orinda exit, Baker said.
Caltrans opened the middle bore for eastbound traffic around 11 a.m., and all lanes were open by 1:30 p.m., according to the CHP.
Baker said both Oakland and Moraga-Orinda fire crews used new safety procedures during Friday’s fire that have been implemented in preparation for the Caldecott Tunnel’s fourth bore, which is scheduled to open the weekend of Nov. 16.
Most of the new safety protocols focus on communication between agencies during an emergency, she said.
The emergency traffic gate used to blocked traffic from heading into the bore during Friday morning’s car fire is another new safety feature, she said.
(© Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)