A large tour bus filled with Japanese tourists caught fire late Wednesday afternoon, blocking westbound lanes of San Antonio Road near Charleston Road and emitting dense clouds of smoke. No one was injured, Palo Alto fire and police officials reported.
The passengers, 35 Japanese businessmen on a tour of Silicon Valley, were evacuated and their luggage was being unloaded from the bus shortly before 7 p.m. as a heavy-duty tow truck was en route to the scene, according to Chris Woodard, battalion chief of C Company.
The driver of the bus, operated by Lassen Tours, said he was westbound on San Antonio approaching Charleston when "he heard a loud bang come from the rear of the bus while driving and saw smoke coming from the engine compartment." He stopped the bus about 50 yards east of Charleston and evacuated the passengers, as the fire and smoke engulfed the rear of the bus.
The passengers eventually took refuge in the Jewish Community Center as they awaited a replacement bus.
Initially reported as a car fire, it was upgraded to a bus fire as Engine 4 and Rescue 2 units were responding. Due to the upgrade, Palo Alto Truck 6 and Engine 3 from Mountain View also responded.
Engine 4 crews reported heavy smoke and flames coming from the rear of the bus, and extinguished the fire in about 30 minutes, Woodard reported. There was heavy heat damage to the engine area and extensive smoke damage in the passenger area.