- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A third fire in six days at Metro’s Farragut North station in Northwest halted train service yesterday and caused delays through much of the morning.

The fire, which occurred just before 10 a.m., capped a busy morning for transit agency officials, who also dealt with a suspicious package outside a Metro train station in Alexandria and a Metro bus fire in Northwest.

Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said the fire on the inbound tracks of the Red Line station began with a short circuit in an electrical line. A train operator reported the fire, and officials shut down the station at 9:58 a.m. Officials briefly reopened the station at 10:48 a.m. but closed it again about 10 minutes later as smoke continued to rise from the tracks.

Officials operated trains on a single track between the Dupont Circle and Judiciary Square stations for more than 90 minutes, resulting in major delays. Service at the Farragut North station resumed at 11:40 a.m.

Some riders were exasperated, others frustrated, but most were resigned to not going anywhere fast.

Lauren Campos of Silver Spring said she suffers through Metro delays “all the time,” but she takes it in stride.

“It’s so frequent that you become numb to it,” said MissCampos, 23. “I haven’t been injured. If I was, then I’d be upset.”

Yesterday’s fire was the second track fire at the Farragut North station in two days and the third since Friday.

Service was stopped briefly on Tuesday morning after smoke billowed from an insulator joint on the electrified third rail. On Friday, newspaper fell on the track and caught fire, causing a 15-minute delay in both directions.

Steven A. Feil, Metro’s chief operating officer for rail, said officials are looking into whether the incidents are related.

“We want to take a proactive approach,” Mr. Feil said.

Tony Dorsey, a spokesman for the D.C. fire department, said firefighters responded to nine calls for smoke spotted in Metro stations or tunnels since Jan. 1.

Earlier yesterday, officials found two suitcases and a backpack sitting unattended near the bus waiting area of the Braddock Road station in Alexandria at about 3 a.m.

The bags remained there for at least two hours because officials with Alexandria’s police department, which doesn’t have a bomb squad, were unable to reach Metro Transit Police until 5 a.m. By then, Virginia State Police had arrived at the station. Metro’s bomb squad arrived about five minutes later, said Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein.

Metro is investigating why there was such a lengthy delay in contacting transit police, and disciplinary action may result, Miss Farbstein said.

Explosives technicians determined the bags were harmless, but the station, which normally opens at 5 a.m., did not open until about 7:30 a.m.

Meanwhile, a Metro bus traveling from McPherson Square to Chevy Chase caught fire near 18th and K streets in Northwest at about 5:45 a.m.

Officials said the driver heard one of the bus’s tires blow out and pulled over to the side. After instructing the three passengers aboard to exit the bus, the driver noticed flames from the rear wheels of the bus.

No one was injured in the fire, which officials said was caused by malfunctioning braking and air-dryer systems.

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