East Bay News

Freeway closure follows crash that sparked fire

Friday, June 08, 2012
I-580 in Oakland closes for repair work A car crashed into a power pole in the Oakland Hills Friday afternoon, sparking a three-alarm vegetation fire.

A car crashed into a power pole in the Oakland Hills Friday afternoon, sparking a three-alarm vegetation fire in an area of the city east of Interstate 580.

The fire apparently began when a woman driving in a Buick Century struck a power pole on Mountain Boulevard near Keller Avenue, causing power lines to fall and spark.

The car hit the pole at about 40 mph around 1:40 pm. and the CHP said there are no skid marks on Mountain Boulevard before the pole. The car broke the pole in three and severed a streetlight. A portion of the light's arm smashed into the woman's windshield through the steering wheel and stopped inches from her chest. Gary Fields and another man pulled the woman to safety and away from the power lines.

"We helped her get out of her car. I grabbed her purse and then helped her over to this side of the curb and set her down," said Fields. He then saw that the car had caused a fire to start. "At the time the fire was already raging and going very fast up the hill and spreading."

Lois Chambers, 81, was one of the people evacuated. She said it was very scary to walk outside and realize she was surrounded by white smoke as the fire inched near her house. Chambers' daughter Tonya Sellars knew her mother had been evacuated and was rushing home when she saw the flames.

"On the freeway, I could see the fire going up the hill so the only thing I could think is our house is gone," said Sellars.

The fire drew a quick and forceful response from firefighters who were concerned about the hilly terrain and dense vegetation. Twenty people in nearby homes were evacuated.

Oakland Fire Department Batt. Chief Melinda Drayton said the more than 100 firefighters on scene were helped by the location of the grass and tree fire. She said the streets acted as natural fire breaks, helping the firefighters from keeping the flames from spreading. No injuries were reported and no homes were damaged.

The fire was contained shortly after 3 p.m. Less than two acres were burned.

A PG&E spokesperson says 6,700 customers in the area lost power because of the downed line. Shortly before 6 p.m., about 150 customers remained without power.

Oakland police have not identified the driver, but said she is at the hospital with cuts and bruises and in stable condition.

Fire officials warn the fire danger will be very high this weekend.

I-580 to closed for power line repair

All lanes of I-580 in Oakland had to close for an hour Friday night so PG&E could repair the power lines damaged in the crash.

The closure was supposed to start around 9 p.m., but was delayed two hours because PG&E needed some more time to prepare the lines that were going to be strung across the highway. The closure started around 11:15 p.m. and ended about 12:15 p.m. Westbound traffic was diverted at Golf Links Road and eastbound traffic was diverted at Seminary Avenue. Highway 13 traffic was diverted at Carson Street.

Vic Lee, David Louie, Lyanne Melendez and Tomas Roman contributed to this report.

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oakland, fire, I-580, power outage, PG&E, east bay news
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