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A fire that began on the third rail of the BART tracks in North Berkeley stopped train service for more than an hour between North Berkeley and El Cerrito on Wednesday afternoon, authorities report.

Trains were running again as of about 3:30 p.m., but BART said there was a major delay on the Richmond line.

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Assistant Berkeley Fire Chief Keith May said 911 callers reported an explosion, red flames and black smoke on the BART tracks at Neilson Street and Northside Avenue at about 2:10 p.m. BART stopped a Richmond-bound train and had power cut to the third rail, May said, so firefighters could put out the blaze.

May said it appeared that the fire had begun on the third rail of the BART tracks and spilled over to a grassy area at Gilman Street and Northside. Insulation on the BART tracks also caught fire, he said. Firefighters arrived on scene at 2:14 p.m. and the fire was declared under control at 2:25 p.m.

According to a BART service alert posted just before 2:40 p.m., “BART service has stopped between North Berkeley and El Cerrito del Norte on the Richmond Line due to a fire near the trackway. A/C Transit is providing mutual aid via bus #72.”

As of about 3:30 p.m., BART trains were running again and the earlier service advisory was no longer in effect. But the agency reported a “major delay” on the Richmond line: “BART is recovering from an earlier problem. Service has been restored to the Richmond line. There is a major delay on the Richmond Line in the Warm Springs, Richmond and Millbrae directions due to an earlier fire near the trackway.”

Police initially asked motorists to avoid Gilman Street between Peralta and Santa Fe avenues due to the fire and closed Gilman temporarily. As of 2:53 p.m., the roadway had reopened, police reported.

As of about 3:40 p.m., BART reported on Twitter that normal train service had resumed: “The fire by the trackway led to minor damage but thanks to our crews and the Berkeley Fire Department on the scene, trains are back in service.”

The story was updated repeatedly after publication due to the developing nature of events. Check for BART service alerts.

Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...