Metro News Release

For immediate release: May 15, 2013

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

Cables under Car 1091 are inspected by investigators
Cables under Car 1091 are inspected by investigators

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.
  • THE ROOT CAUSE OF THE INCIDENT REMAINS UNDER INVESTIGATION. THERE HAS BEEN NO FINAL DETERMINATION AS TO CAUSE. 
  • 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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