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Fire In The Dining Car
Aboard The Amtrak Coast Starlight

On Saturday, November 27, 1999, train number 14, the north bound Coast Starlight pulled into the Santa Barbara, CA station, at 12:08 PM. Shortly after arriving in the station, smoke started billowing out of the dining car.

Photos & Story from Chuck & Greg Isaac (

On board personnel tried to put the fire out with fire extinguishers and proceeded to get more fire extinguishers from the station. They apparently almost succeeded in putting out the fire because the smoke almost stopped completely prior to starting to billow out of the car again. The on board services manager used a cell phone to call the Santa Barbara fire department, while the two "conductors" proceeded to evacuate the dining car of passengers and keep onlookers away from the car. Shortly thereafter, several trucks from the SB fire department arrived. It is interesting to note that since the parking area has recently become a controlled area, that each truck had to stop and get a parking ticket in order to avoid breaking a wooden barrier arm off. The fire department proceeded to put out the fire and blow all the smoke out of the dining car. The train finally pulled out of the SB station at exactly 1:00PM. The conductor commented that it was very fortunate that the train was in the station when it caught fire; he realized that if they were out in the middle of nowhere when it caught fire they would not have controlled it. The conductor told me that they would be getting another diner added to the train at the SLO station. This may not have happened, since we went back to the SB station to see the number 14 south bound Coast Starlight later that day. Neither the regular diner on the south bound train, nor the spare diner car, had serial numbers that matched the original diner (the original number ended in 049). This probably means that the northbound train didn't get a new diner until it reached Oakland.

Additional information:

"The fire started underneath the stove, [the fire chief] said, probably because grease ignited or because of an electrical problem. ... Firefighters who arrived on the scene at 12:19 p.m. used water hoses to extinguish the stove fire."

"We responded with three engine companies and the rescue squad," [the fire chief] said. "The only complication is there wasn't much ventilation. It was pretty hot in there. It took a while to clear the smoke."

There were no injuries from this minor fire. Passengers were somewhat inconvenienced by the evacuation of the diner, the delay, and the lack of a dining car for part of the northbound journey. Though grease fires are probably non-existent on airplanes, it is probably better to be on a train experiencing a minor fire than a plane experiencing a minor fire.

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Trainweb wishes to thank Chuck Isaac and Greg Isaac ( for providing the coverage and photos of this event. If you have a news item that you believe would be of interest to the visitors of TrainWeb, we welcome your submission and will consider posting it to TrainWeb. Because our time is limited, not all material submitted can be posted. However, if we believe the story to be of great interest to our visitors, or if the material that you submit is pretty close to being "web ready" (which will require less work on our part), the more likely it is that we will post your story. Please submit all such materials to:

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