WASHINGTON - On the eve of the pope's visit to Washington, there was another malfunction on Metro. One of three transformers providing power to Metro's Blue, Orange and Silver lines near the Stadium-Armory station caught fire.
Firefighters rushed to the scene near RFK Stadium and found thick black smoke pouring out of an underground substation where the elevated tracks descend into the tunnel.
"This is very dangerous,” said D.C. Fire and EMS Deputy Chief John Connelly. “The atmosphere down there, it's black, it’s dark, you can't see.”
The incident commander asked for hazmat and a foam unit to come to the scene as trains were stopped in both directions.
"Ultimately, you don’t want to put out an electrical fire with water, so we did not do that with the foam unit,” said Connelly. “We used the dry chemical or Purple-K agent that’s on it to darken down the fire -- it didn't put it out.
“Eventually we had to secure all of the power working with Pepco and Metro to make sure it was all out. Then we had to go down into the smoke to find the battery disconnects, turn the battery disconnects off, and then we were able to put some water on it to ultimately extinguish the fire.”
All of that work took over six hours.
"The impact, once power is restored, is that we might slow trains down to reduce the draw on power temporarily until it is fully repaired,” said Metro spokesperson Dan Stessel.
With trains at a standstill, Metro worked to establish a bus bridge between the Benning Road, Minnesota Ave. and Eastern Market stations.
The Stadium-Armory station was reopened and service on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines was restored on Monday afternoon. However, residual delays were expected during Monday's evening rush hour.
This is another service disruption in a long line of them in recent months.
"What I would advise anyone who takes Orange, Blue or Silver is to have an alternate plan tonight or allow extra travel time,” said Stessel. “We know there is a Nats game tonight at Nats Park.”
With Pope Francis arriving in Washington Tuesday night, we asked Stessel about the challenges that lie ahead -- especially on Wednesday afternoon when more than 25,000 people are expected to attend a Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
"Brookland station is the smallest station on the Red Line,” said Stessel. “Its platform is accessed by one escalator up and one escalator down. We can reconfigure it and make both go up and both go down in an extry/exit only configuration. But even with that, the number of passengers that can move through Brookland is 4,000 if there’s one escalator and 8,000 if it’s two escalators. If you do the math, you’re still talking multiple hours if everyone tries to use Brookland station."
Stessel also said people heading to the shrine should also use the Fort Totten and Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood stations and then take a Circulator bus.
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