Tunnel fire causes Metro delays once again

Greg Nash

A fire in a Metro tunnel caused delays on the Orange and Silver lines Friday morning, just over a week after a cable fire prompted the entire transit system to be shut down for emergency inspections.

A Metro spokesman confirmed that the transit agency received reports of smoke and fire near the Clarendon station before 10 a.m., and service was suspended between Rosslyn and Ballston. Free shuttles are currently in service to provide alternative routes for passengers as service is restored.

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The Arlington County Fire Department tweeted shortly before 11 a.m. that a fire was extinguished and the scene was turned over to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Metro said the track fire was caused by burning debris, not a cable or power issue.

The event is just the latest in a string of serious problems for the beleaguered transit agency. Officials made the unprecedented decision to shut down Metro for about 24 hours last Wednesday following an earlier cable fire near the McPherson Square stop. During an emergency inspection, 1,928 cables were inspected, 27 defects were repaired and non-emergency repairs — which includes things like removing debris from around cables — are now underway at 338 other locations.

Officials announced Thursday that Metro is still investigating the incident and will be launching a new inspection program next week. It remains to be seen whether officials will close the transit system again. Cherry blossoms are in peak bloom this weekend — one of the biggest tourism draws for the Washington area of the year.

—This story was updated at 12:05 p.m.