Cause Of Silver Spring Metro Fire Investigated

4:16 PM, May 15, 2013   |    comments
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SILVER SPRING, Md. (WUSA9) -- Metro says they're still investigating what caused the fire underneath one of its rail cars Tuesday night at the Silver Spring Metro Station.

It was nightmarish commute on the Red line during the height of rush hour in Silver Spring. 

24 hours later and Metro still doesn't know exactly what caused the fire that brought the red line to a halt.

A Metro investigation team says they've eliminated the track as a contributing factor and narrowed it down to the rail car. 

Smoke, flames and distinct flashes are seen on youtube video.  Metro now says there were three explosions.

Tristan Smith was just getting off work around 6 Thursday night.

"I looked outside and saw the flames.  I had to walk a different route. I have to reassess, I don't take the red line anymore."

Councilwoman and Metro Board Member Muriel Bowser  says they'll get to the bottom of what happened. 

"I think what's most important is to figure out what happened and it doesn't happen again. We expect full accounting of what happened, until we have that report it would be premature to talk about it. I'm never pleased anytime our passengers are inconvenienced and I will not rest until we know what happened."

The investigation has now turned to the rail car, a 1000 series car which is part of the oldest rail cars in its fleet.   They will be replaced with the 7000 series in less than a year.

The investigation is focused on the possibility that metal-shielded hoses came into contact with power cables under the car body creating an electrical short.

Metro says fire never breached the passenger cabin and no one was inside at the time.  There were no reports of injuries.

Here's Meto's press release: 

Metro releases preliminary findings of investigation into electrical fire under rail car

The investigation into the cause of last night's Red Line fire is ongoing. While Metro has not yet identified the root cause of the fire, investigators have eliminated track conditions as a contributing factor.

The investigation is focused at this time on the rail car -- a 1000-series car that is the oldest type in the fleet and scheduled for retirement with the arrival of the new 7000-series rail cars next year.

As a preliminary matter, investigators are looking at the way the electrical arc-flashing occurred beneath the car, which suggests possible unintended contact between a metal-shielded hose under the train, and power cables. Careful examination of the rail car is expected to require several days, as its under-car equipment suffered damage from the fire. 

In addition to determining the root cause, the investigation will review all aspects of the operation of the incident train yesterday, including the offloading of passengers and the train's movement beyond Takoma Station.

Preliminary Investigative Findings as of 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 15

•         Shortly after 6 p.m., Metro's Rail Operations Control Center received a report of three small "explosions," smoke and fire associated with Train #715. The train was located on track #1 at Silver Spring Station.
•         In response, the Control Center removed third rail power on Track 1, which stopped the electrical arcing under the train. The Control Center notified Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service, Metro Transit Police, and appropriate internal response departments.
•         The Silver Spring Station platform was evacuated, and the station was subsequently closed to allow for the emergency response.
•         Train 715 was not carrying passengers during the time of the arcing flashes or related under-train fire. The train was offloaded at Takoma Station.
•         The electrical arcing (flashes) and related fire were located under car 1091, which was the third car in the consist.
•         Fire department personnel extinguished the fire under railcar 1091 using dry chemical.
•         Fire did not breach the passenger compartment of railcar 1091. Fire damage is contained to the undercarriage and side of the car.
•         WMATA Car Equipment Engineers are working to determine the root cause of the incident. The investigation is focused on the possibility that metal-shielded hoses came into contact with power cables under the car body creating an electrical short.
•         Rail service was suspended between Forest Glen and Takoma stations for approximately 90 minutes to allow for the fire department response to the incident.
•         Shortly before 7:30 p.m., rail service was restored with a single track (track 2) between Takoma and Forest Glen. Silver Spring Station reopened for exit only shortly after 8 p.m. Full service was restored shortly after 9 p.m.
News release issued at 3:32 pm, May 15, 2013.

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