Yerba Buena Island grass fire causes Bay Bridge traffic nightmare

A grass fire erupted on Yerba Buena Island on Saturday afternoon, which shut down the lower deck lanes on the Bay Bridge for nearly two hours, causing a traffic headache for hundreds of drivers.

San Francisco fire officials reported the fire about 2:30 p.m., prompting the California Highway Patrol to quickly shut down the lower deck of the bridge along eastbound Interstate 80.

"Unfortunately, we had to inconvenience everyone," Fire Rescue Capt. Justin Schorr told KTVU. "We didn't want to close it. But we did it for safety."

The inconvenience was caused by the fact that firefighters had to take over the bridge and cut through a fence to hose down the fire. There are fire hydrants located all along the north side of the Bay Bridge and the fire was on the south side, Schorr said. 

The fire was first spotted at the base of the island, and it took about 40 firefighters about an hour to put an end to it, Schorr said.

Schorr said that fighting the fire was challenging because of the heavy smoke and steep terrain on the island. 

Crews on fire boats from San Francisco and Alameda County assisted from the bay.

At 4 p.m., Caltrans noted there was a five-mile backup from the bridge to the Interstate 280 interchange. 

All lanes were reopened at 4:30 p.m., but the traffic nightmare persisted into the evening. 

People posted videos of the stalled traffic on social media.  

Some people were seen simply walking along the lower deck of the bridge, possibly leaving their cars behind. 

As for the cause of the fire, Schorr said he didn't know as there were no witnesses.

But he did remind people never to throw cigarettes or lit matches out their windows, because every day in California is fire season. 

Fire crews attack fire on Yerba Buena Island. May 18, 2024 Photo SFFD

Smoke seen through the Bay Bridge from a grass fire at Yerba Buena Island. May 18, 2024

Traffic backed up on the Bay Bridge because of Yerba Buena Island fire. May 18, 2024