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Tram catches fire in Yosemite National Park

YOSEMITE -- Yosemite National Park officials continue to investigate an incident where the truck hauling a tram carrying tourists caught fire and burned up on Highway 41 near the Tunnel View turnoff.

Park spokesman Scott Gediman said no one was injured in the 2:15 p.m. incident Saturday.

"Most importantly, nobody got hurt; a truck can be replaced," Gediman said.

Kenny Karst, spokesman for DNC Parks and Resorts at Yosemite, said the truck-tram combination was going up the steep grade to the Tunnel View overlook when the driver smelled hot and escaping antifreeze from a blown radiator hose. The aluminum engine overheated, caught fire and ignited the propane fuel source, destroying the truck cab.

The 60 passengers had disembarked from the tram minutes before and walked 100 yards to the viewing area. Members of the Park Service fire department and Yosemite Volunteer Fire Department responded but used up their water sources trying to put out the fire.

A helicopter was dispatched to make three passes to douse the flaming truck cab, declared a total loss. The tram was not damaged in the fire.

Karst said Highway 41 was closed for 2 ½ hours during the emergency. Another tram was dispatched to pick up the stranded tourists.

Gediman said the propane vented but did not explode. The truck pulling the tram had been in service since the early 1980s.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2485 or dyawger@mercedsun-star.com.

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