Tour bus catches fire, ties up San Antonio Road

Smoky fire visible from some distance, while passengers take refuge in the Jewish Community Center

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.

(Watch footage from the incident, posted by the Media Center)

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.

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Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 13, 2011 at 1:46 am

Apparently, the tour bus was on fire before it exited 101. Thank goodness nobody was hurt. Here's some of the CHP radio traffic: Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto native
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 13, 2011 at 11:09 am

We were in that gridlock and wondered what happened. Thank goodness no one was hurt.

Like this comment
Posted by Media Center
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 13, 2011 at 11:11 am

If you'd like to see footage of the fire go to the Media Center website and you can watch video that was shot and edited by Jeff McGinnis from the Media Center.

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Becky Sanders
a resident of Ventura
on Jan 13, 2011 at 11:14 am

Here's a link to the Media Center Blog and video covering this event. We interviewed Mr. Imai of SoftBank of Tokyo, a passenger on the bus:
Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by map reader
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Westbound San Antonio? San Antonio Road runs almost due north-south as it passes the JCC.

Like this comment
Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 13, 2011 at 12:49 pm

I was also stuck in the resulting traffic jam and wondered what had happened. Ironically I had followed a friend's advice and taken a new "faster" commute route only to get stuck on Middlefield Road, which was also backed up.

It was nice the tourists were able to spend some time at our beautiful JCC facility instead of standing by the side of the road.

Like this comment
Posted by glad no one was hurt
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 13, 2011 at 1:57 pm

I'm glad no one was hurt. This could have been a real tragedy.

Like this comment
Posted by bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 13, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Map Reader. You're right, but 99.9% of peninsula residents use El Camino as a north/south direction marker and all other streets are referenced accordingly. It's simpler to think of the Pacific Ocean is west and SF Bay as east when orienting oneself.

A good example is heading "south" on Central Expressway when it approaches Mary in Sunnyvale and the signs correctly identify the direction that Mary runs. However, the first time I happened on it, I was startled. After all CE runs north/south, ergo, Mary runs east/west!!!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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