Federal Center SW Metro station shut down Thursday after track fire incidents

After consulting with the Department of Transportation and Federal Transit Administration, Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld ordered the Federal Center SW station closed Thursday afternoon after two separate incidents sparked fire and massive smoke from the tracks.

D.C. fire officials told FOX 5's Tom Fitzgerald that debris on the tracks caused a fire Thursday afternoon, leading service to be suspended. The afternoon track fire came after there was an arcing insulator incident earlier Thursday morning at Federal Center SW that also caused delays for Metro passengers. Surveillance video from the platform Thursday morning showed an apparent explosion and smoke after a train pulled out of the station.

"When I saw the video in the afternoon, that's when I decided in talking with USDOT and FTA that I'm going to shut this down and replace all the insulators," said Metro general manager Paul Wiedefeld. "With my luck, almost at the same time, we had another smoke incident."

Metro closed the Federal Center SW station to perform a full replacement of third rail insulators.

Wiedefeld said he will be unveiling a maintenance plan on Friday to address their core problems in the rail system.

"This is something that has been going on as recently for decades and we have to get on top of this," he said. The current approach is just not working as we have all seen. We have to be much more aggressive with the safety and liability issues, and unfortunately to do that, it means with a two-track system that you have to take the track down. That is what I will be explaining more [Friday]."

As a result of the station closing, train service on the Blue and Orange lines was suspended between Eastern Market and L'Enfant Plaza. On the Silver Line, trains operated between Wiehle-Reston East and Ballston-MU only. Riders were told to use Orange and Blue Line trains to and from other stations.

Rail service is expected to resume as normal on Friday.

Some trains were reversed out of the Federal Center SW station Thursday afternoon as a safety precaution, according to Metro. A woman who was on a Metro train when the incident happened said, "The train was moving, getting ready to move to L'Enfant Plaza. What ended up happening is the conductor said everyone, basically don't move. He said this is an emergency.

"He came running through the train. He told everyone to sit down because he had to get to the opposite side of the train to try to pull it back into the station. But he couldn't pull it back to the station because I was sitting right there near the radio -- basically what was happening, there was a traffic jam in the tunnel."

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