Rail Car Fire Shuts Down Green Line

By Megan Greenwell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 9, 2007

One of Metro's newest rail cars caught fire yesterday after its motor overheated, shutting down the Green Line's Waterfront-SEU Station for more than two hours, fire officials said.

As many as 100 firefighters responded to the blaze, extinguishing it quickly and evacuating 30 to 70 riders on board at the time. No injuries were reported.

A train operator heard a loud boom as he pulled out of the L'Enfant Plaza Station heading toward Branch Avenue just after 10 a.m., Metro spokeswoman Joanne Ferreira said. Arriving at Waterfront, the next station on the line, the driver saw smoke and flames coming out of the bottom of the last car of the six-car train.

"The driver asked everyone to leave the train, which they did without incident," Ferreira said. "The station was pretty smoky, but everyone was fine."

The station remained closed until 12:40 p.m. to allow the smoke to clear and the damaged train to be hauled to a railroad yard.

D.C. fire department spokesman Alan Etter said the fire appears to have been the result of an overheated motor in the car, part of a fleet of new models manufactured by Alstom. Officials were unsure when that particular car joined the fleet.

Ferreira said transit officials will meet with representatives of the company to discuss the incident. But administrators say they do not believe the malfunction is part of a larger problem with the Alstom 6000-series cars, she said.

"This is very rare to have a fire on a train," she said. "It's really very unusual, but we will investigate to see what happened."

In January, three fires within a week on the tracks at Farragut North shut that station repeatedly during the weekday morning commute. Metro officials concluded that two of those incidents were caused by stray electrical currents, and the third was the result of friction igniting paper that had been thrown onto the tracks.

Yesterday's fire was not expected to affect this morning's commute.

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