Bay Bridge Truck Fire Adds to Traffic in California

A truck fire on the lower deck of the Bay Bridge on Thursday afternoon triggered traffic snarls that aggravated the already ill-famed evening commute.

Just after 1 p.m. a big rig carrying Coors beer caught fire as it headed eastbound just west of Yerba Buena Island, prompting fire crews to close the entire eastbound lower deck for several hours as they battled the blaze.

Smoke wafting up from the fire also impacted portions of the westbound upper deck, causing late afternoon delays in both directions.

The fire started at one of the truck's wheels from a flat tire and moved to the cabin, destroying the refrigerated semi, said California Highway Patrol Officer Wayne Ziese. A special tow truck was called to remove the badly damaged truck, whose metal trailer was warped and cracked in half.

Crews determined the Bay Bridge did not sustain any damage from the blaze, CHP Officer Shawn Chase said.

Firefighters had most of the blaze under control by 2 p.m., and cleanup crews had cleared most lanes by 5:30 p.m.

The closure triggered heinous traffic snarls that spilled onto San Francisco streets. Interstate 80 heading eastbound was a parking lot from the foot of the bridge to Candlestick Park, taking drivers approximately 21/2 hours to cross the span.

The delays came a day after transportation agencies released a report confirming many commuters' suspicions that Bay Area traffic is getting worse. Gridlock rose 4 percent last year, according to findings by Caltrans and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

The early morning stretch along I-80 took the dubious honor for the fifth year running as the Bay Area's most traffic-plagued stretch of freeway. But it was shadowed only by the Bay Bridge commute.

Distributed by the Associated Press