Oakland fire crews raced to the Caldecott Tunnel on Friday during the morning commute after a car burst into flames, prompting an exodus of drivers to ditch their cars and walk away from the smoking bore.
California Highway Patrol Officer Daniel Hill said a car became "fully engulfed in flames" about 9:50 a.m. Although it was difficult to first get inside Bore No. 1, crews knocked down the fire at about 10:20 a.m. No one was injured, though some elderly people and children were checked out at the hospital as a precaution for smoke inhalation, according to the CHP.
The fire caused a traffic nightmare for the motorists caught inside the tunnel. Many abandoned their cars and walked out of the smoky tunnel. All lanes were reopened by 1:30 p.m.
Kevin Watkins, 33, an ad sales broker heading to Martinez, got stuck in the tunnel for a while and had the presence of mind to shoot an Instagram video, which showed people, many on their phones, walking pretty calmly from inside the tunnel to fresh air.
He said the tunnel smelled "smoky and stinky" and at first, he wasn't sure if it was a fire or an explosion, but it seemed big.
"I've never seen anything like it," Watkins told NBC Bay Area on how it looked seeing people step out of their cars and onto the highway. "It was crazy."
All lanes reopened at about 1:30 p.m.
Caldecott Command requesting 3 ambulances for multiple citizens abandoning their vehicles and walkin out of tunnel.
— Oakland Firefighters (@OaklandFireLive) November 1, 2013