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Firefighters Survive 'Near Miss' With Freight Train Battling Oakley Blaze

OAKLEY (CBS SF) -- Firefighters battling a two-alarm blaze at an Oakley tire company early Wednesday were nearly hit by a speeding freight train on tracks they thought had been closed off.

The train tracks are only a few feet from the back of the auto shop that the fire began in. The East Contra Costa County Fire District requested for train traffic to be stopped while they fought the fire.

Fire management said that Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad confirmed the stop request, but three hours after the fire started, a train still approached and nearly hit the firefighters at "a very high rate of speed," according to Battalion Chief Ross Macumber.

"We're considering it a near-miss at this point," he said.

"Engine crews were operating on the backside of the structure. The train tracks we were told were shut down, obviously there was a miscommunication or what not, and a train came through, full speed ahead!" explained Richard Bryan, a senior firefighter for the East Contra Costa County Fire District.

The commercial structure fire was reported in the 3900 block of Main Street just before 2:15 a.m., according to Macumber.

"This was considered a commercial fire. A commercial business, heavy fire load compared to a normal residence structure fire," said Bryan.

Responding crews arrived to the scene quickly and were able to keep the fire confined to the automotive tire shop where it started, but it was a total loss.

oakley fire
A shot revealing the damage done by the fire. (CBS)

Firefighters retreated from inside due to the intensity of the flames and began to work outside to contain the fire from spreading, but severe damage was still done.

A neighboring business sustained significant damage and two other businesses in the strip mall-style building sustained smoke damage.

The building is adjacent to a set of train tracks, according to Macumber. Firefighters put in a request to have the tracks shut down, but something went wrong.

"It was a very frightening moment," Macumber said. "No injuries to report, however, we're going to investigate how this happened and why it happened."

KPIX 5 reached out to Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad to learn more about the close call near the auto shop. Their only response was, "The incident is under investigation."

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