A portion of the Metro was shut down for emergency repairs Thursday night after two fires broke out in the same station in a matter of hours, a day before the agency’s general manager was set to announce a long-term maintenance plan for the system.
Dramatic video showed a fireball erupting at Federal Center SW, where an arcing insulator appeared to be the culprit of a morning fire.
“When I saw the video this afternoon, I decided to talk to [the U.S. Department of Transportation] and [the Federal Transit Administration] and shut down and replace these insulators,” Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld said Thursday night. “With my luck, it was at the same time we had another smoke incident.”
In the Thursday afternoon incident, smoke caused by debris cluttered around the third rail prompted the evacuation of Federal Center. Blue, Orange and Silver line service was suspended from Eastern Market to L’Enfant Plaza, creating commuter havoc during the evening rush hour. The track fire occurred about 4:30 p.m.
Officials said full service was expected to resume for the Friday morning commute.
The emergency track work centered on insulators, stubby rail components that separate the track bed from the electrified third rail, which are prone to fire when damaged or worn. Metro said older, porcelain insulators prone to fire would be replaced by a newer fiberglass model.
Track personnel, who could be seen hauling shopping carts full of the rail components, were to replace about 120 of the insulators overnight.