Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Crime & Emergencies
Sparks, Flames Near Cole Valley Muni Tunnel Light Up Night SkyAround 8:50pm, sparks, flames and loud popping noises emanated from the Sunset Tunnel. | Photo: Walter Thompson/Hoodline
Published on September 30, 2017

The skies over Cole Valley and the Upper Haight came alive tonight in a brief display of pyrotechnics that inspired fascination and awe for some, and safety concerns for others.

At approximately 8:50pm, bright lights began flashing with enough intensity to illuminate clouds and fog overhead. The display continued for approximately 30 seconds; unlike a lightning storm, no thunder was detected during or afterwards.

According to Ryan, an employee at Burgermeister (86 Cole St.), a wire across the Sunset Tunnel entrance near Carl & Cole Streets was ablaze and emitting sparks that were “brighter than daylight.”

Several customers ran out of the restaurant, which is next to the tunnel’s portal. Another employee said the flashes were accompanied by a staccato popping noise that grew faster and louder as the sparks intensified.

“It was kinda scary, I guess, because you have no idea of what’s going on,” said Ryan. “I’ve never seen anything like it."

A truck from SFFD Station 12 on Stanyan Street saw the flashes and immediately headed to the scene without waiting for a dispatch call, said Ryan.

Via Twitter, resident Tom Fitzgerald told Hoodline that the sparks and flames which emanated behind his home and inside the tunnel were accompanied by “very loud explosions & lit up the inside of our whole house.”

Andrew Wooster captured the action on a south-facing security camera that overlooks Haight Street near Cole. In the video, the lights flash continuously for nearly 30 seconds.

In a text message on our tipline, Cameron W. said he saw the flashes from his home on Mt. Olympus.

“Bright like lightning, no obvious sound. Looked like it came from near the Cole/Carl intersection. I suspect a branch or something shorted across the N overhead lines," he said.

Ryan and Fitzgerald both noted that firefighters departed after only a few minutes on the scene.

Due to work on the Inner Sunset Streetscape Improvement Project, the N-Judah is running shuttles between Duboce & Church and Ocean Beach all weekend, so service was not disrupted.

We’ve reached out to Muni to learn more about the cause of tonight’s light show; when we learn more, we’ll update this story.

Thanks very much to Tom Fitzgerald, Andrew Wooster and Cameron W.

Have you seen something unexpected in San Francisco? Text tips and photos to 415-200-3233; if we use your info in a story, we’ll give you credit.