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Silver Spring Metro fire caused by faulty mechanical equipment

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A fire that broke out underneath a Red Line Metro train Tuesday afternoon may have been caused by a metal hose that came into contact with power cables, WMATA officials say.

A small fire can be seen below the Red Line train. (Photo: WJLA)

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The fire broke out under an empty car #1091 at the Silver Spring station around 6 p.m. Tuesday. Montgomery County Assistant Fire Chief Scott Graham says the fire was extinguished a half hour later.

“I’m staring out my window and flames are right there and someone behind me screamed,” says Zachary Kulzer.

“I saw brown smoke on the window,” says Fernando Jordan. “You couldn’t see anything through it.”

Jordan hit the emergency button as the train pulled into Takoma. The train operator ordered everyone to evacuate.

No one was injured and nobody was inside the 1000-series car when the flames erupted at Silver Spring. Track conditions have been ruled out as a contributing factor, but Metro officials say that metal hoses on the car's undercarriage may have come into contact with power cables.

That contact may have led to an electrical short, which in turn may have caused electrical arcing and the subsequent fire. Metro is still looking for the root cause of the fire and refused repeated requests for interviews Wednesday.

Foul play continues to not be suspected. Service began being restored to Silver Spring about 90 minutes after the fire and the station fully reopened at about 9:20 p.m.

While Metro searches for an exact cause, riders wonder when the Red Line problems will finally end.

“Following the 2009 incident, which was catastrophic, I think Metro should have been better prepared for this,” says Michelle Bailey.

The 1000-series cars that Metro operates are the oldest in the rail system. They're currently being phased out and will be replaced by new 7000-series cars.

Montgomery County authorities also released a 911 call they received shortly after the fire broke out, in which a caller describes electrical flashes, smoke and fire.

Video: Lisa Public

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