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CA: San Fran City Hall Evacuated for Electrical Fire

November 19, 2012 Leave a comment

San Francisco, CA: A small electrical fire prompted the evacuation of San Francisco City Hall on Tuesday night, and operations are still affected this morning, a mayoral spokeswoman said.  The fire, reported around 9:30 p.m. in an electrical vault in the basement, activated the building’s sprinkler system, said Christine Falvey, spokeswoman for Mayor Ed Lee.  Those inside the building were escorted out, including hundreds of people who were attending a private reception in the rotunda, she said.  The sprinkler system and responding firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze, but there was minor water damage to the basement, Falvey said.  The city’s Elections Department, which is located in the basement, was not affected by the fire, Falvey said. The first and second floors of City Hall, which are home to various departments that offer public services, are open for business today, Falvey said.  The third and fourth floors, which mostly contain city staff offices, have intermittent power and a number of employees are working remotely this morning, Falvey said.  She said power is expected to be fully restored to City Hall later this morning.  The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Story via mercurynews.com

 

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CA: BART Arc Flash Caught on Video

October 1, 2012 Leave a comment

Bay Area, CA:  Bay Area Regional Transit (BART) officials, after reviewing surveillance video, are sticking with their story that no fire was involved in the Sept. 16 incident that filled Civic Center Station with smoke and forced the station to be evacuated.

A preliminary investigation found that the incident was a large electrical arc, essentially a giant spark, they said Tuesday. It caused a bright flash of orange that shot up the side of the train and over its roof, produced loud noises and generated huge clouds of smoke.

The arc flash was likely produced when a piece of metallic debris caused a short circuit, said Don Allen, BART’s chief engineer. But witnesses described seeing a wall of flames. “This was not a fire in the sense of flames burning any solid material or causing any structural damage, but the bright flash of the arc has a fiery appearance,” he said. “There was a cloud of heavy smoke, so it is understandable that to some passengers it seemed like fire.”

BART officials released surveillance video from two cameras on the station platform and two on the concourse. One camera shows a train pulling into the station, heading toward the East Bay, when there’s a bright flash that looks like a fireball from the rear. On the other side of the platform, the video shows passengers moving away from the train as an orange burst of light illuminates the platform. One, holding a bike, appears to fall or be knocked to the platform, colliding with another passenger.

Allen said investigators did not find any debris on the tracks but found some drops of molten metal. He said the arcing is similar to the torch used in welding, which uses 30 volts of electricity to produce a hot, bright arc across a 1/4-inch gap. BART is powered by 1,000 volts of electricity, and the arc produced was likely over a 12- to 14-inch gap – the distance between the electric third rail and the nearest rail carrying the train.

“It’s like welding but powered by a much more powerful source,” he said.

BART plans to share the information with Muni, which shares the station, and with the state Public Utilities Commission, which oversees rail transit safety. Andrew Kotch, a commission spokesman, said the agency is conducting its own review and is expected to discuss the incident Thursday.

Story via sfgate.com