Farragut North Metro station in downtown Washington was closed this morning because of a fire on the tracks, causing significant delays, Metro officials said. The problem came a day after a short circuit caused smoke on the rails in the same station and delayed thousands of commuters during Tuesday's morning rush.
Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said the station was closed just before 10 a.m., after the discovery of a "small fire."
Trains continued to move in both directions, but were sharing a single track between Dupont Circle and Judiciary Square while the fire was extinguished, the track was inspected and the cause was investigated.
Although the station was briefly reopened at 10:48 a.m., D.C. fire officials soon asked that it be shut down again, while they continued working to extinguish any hot spots on the tracks, Metro officials said.
The station reopened shortly after 11 a.m.
Earlier, shuttle buses were offered between Dupont Circle and Metro Center. Motorists also were affected by the fire: At midmorning, police closed Connecticut Avenue between K and M streets.
In all, morning service at Farragut North has been disrupted on three out of the past four workdays because of smoke or fire. A newspaper fire on the same general area of tracks caused delays Friday morning. Today's commute was also slowed by several other incidents, including two reports of fires at other stations that proved false, and the
Yesterday, a train operator reported smoke on the northbound side of the track at 9:08 a.m. Metro officials said a short circuit caused smoke to come out of bolts that support the running rail. It was not immediately known whether the causes of today's and yesterday's incidents were related.
Although the station remained open yesterday, there were considerable delays as Metro shut off power to that stretch of track, and 76 District fire and emergency personnel responded, according to Metro and fire officials and passengers. Trains had to share the same track for more than 90 minutes before normal service was restored, officials said.
Metro officials said yesterday that the incident from that morning was not related to the fire Friday, even though they took place on the same track in the same general area.
Last Friday's fire was started when friction and brake dust caused a spark that ignited newspaper that had fallen on the track, according to Steve Feil, Metro's chief operating officer for rail. Yesterday's incident was "metal to metal that shorted and got smoldering," he said. "They were not related, thank God."
Friday's incident was cleared in 15 minutes, but delays rippled along the line.
Some passengers who were again stuck on trains took a philosophical approach to the delays. On one Red Line train, commuters on crowded car No. 1032 barely reacted when the operator announced that trains were moving slowly because of the single-tracking. They continued to work their crossword puzzles, read their newspapers and doze off while listening to iPods.
Before passengers realized that the delay would stretch to almost an hour, they stepped out of their commuter personas -- no eye contact, no talking to the person next to you -- and struck up conversations with those nearby. Some wondered aloud about the likelihood of finding a taxicab if they got off the train.
Others commented on Washington politics. As one man in a dark overcoat read a newspaper article about the testimony of former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer in the perjury trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, a man standing next to him wearing a camel coat caught his eye, leaned in and said, "He really nailed him," referring to how Fleischer's testimony damaged Libby.
When a woman in a red ski jacket announced that she was from Texas and not used to such cold weather, the man in the camel coat turned to her and said, "Can you take Bush with you when you leave?"
"It's not our fault he was born in Texas," the woman retorted, prompting chuckles from others.
Many of the passengers on the train were headed to Farragut North and other stations downtown, but everyone had to get off at Dupont Circle because trains were sharing one track.
"I'm glad I had a good breakfast this morning," said Frank Zakar, an engineer at the National Transportation Safety Board who got off at Dupont Circle and settled in for a several-minute wait for a train headed downtown. He needed to go to Gallery Place and figured he would be an hour and a half late to work. He was calm: "There's nothing you can do, even if you're in a hurry."
Staff writer Bill Brubaker contributed to this report.