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Smoke and Explosions Reported at Eastern Market Metro Station

Eastern Market Metro Station was closed just before 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15 after reports of smoke and the sound of explosions.

Film shared by @agiasacutie on X (formerly Twitter) showed billowing smoke coming from the ticket hall as passengers and employees fled.

DC Fire Emergency Medical Services (DC FEMS) responded to a box alarm just before 1 p.m.

About 1:30 p.m. Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen (D) said he had spoken to the DC FEMS Chief who said there was no derailment or injuries, but the platform and station were both evacuated.

DC FEMS is investigating the situation. About 3 p.m. that day, they said 9 patients were evaluated and 1 was transported to hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. An earlier message ad indicated no injuries reported.

DCFEMS is working with WMATA to ventilate the station.

At about 1:45 p.m. DC FEMS wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that they had put out a fire linked to an insulator under a train car in the station. (Insulators prevent electricity from flowing between two surfaces that can conduct electricity).

By 3:19 p.m., WMATA was reporting that the incident was caused by arcing between a third rail shoe assemby on a 7000 series car, which had likely made electrical contact with the third rail. WMATA said there were “No known fleet-wide issues but inspections continue.” The particular car had last been inspected Jan. 3, 2024, WMATA indicated.

Single tracking was implemented for a few hours to allow for inspection of the tracks, which found no anomalies. However, a collector shoe issue was reported at L’Enfant Plaza the day before, WMATA noted. “Nothing [was] found,” WMATA wrote on social media, adding that the “incidents [are] not thought to be related.’

Nine years ago, 91 people were injured and one other person died in an electrical station fire that happened Jan. 12, 2015 at L’Enfant Metro Station. It took nearly 35 minutes for DCFEMS to reach the affected car. A post-accident report issued that December by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) noted the delayed response to the track fire, caused by damages to components of the electrified third rail.

Among other procedural problems, NTSB indicated that poor communication between first responders and WMATA and between WMATA command and individual trains had played a role.

At a Feb. 16, 2024 DC Council Oversight Hearing, WMATA General Manager Randy Clarke said that since the L’Enfant fire, WMATA’s control center has had DC FEMS and DC MPD personnel in the control center to assist in coordination for events such as this.

Roads were closed around Eastern Market Metro Station for most of the afternoon, including the 700 to 900 blocks of Pennsylvania Ave. SE  and the 300 to 400 blocks of Eighth Street SE (betweeen C and E Streets). There is no train service between Federal Center SW and Stadium Armory (blue-orange-silver lines) at this time. WMATA is providing shuttle buses.  

This is an updating story.

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