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DC Metro Adds Fire Department Liaison In Wake Of Safety Incidents

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter

The D.C. Metro will begin staffing its control center 24/7 with a liaison from the fire department to help prepare and coordinate emergency responses to track fires.

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld made the announcement Monday in the wake of a string of track fire incidents, which have caused an evacuation and multiple delays this year. The fire expert will be stationed at the Rail Operations Control Center to facilitate quicker responses when a saftey hazard occurs. Federal investigators are set to release their findings regarding the 2015 incident in L’Enfant Plaza station, which left one woman dead and 91 injured on Tuesday.

“In less than a year since we began this initiative, we have seen that embedding a fire service liaison in the Metro Rail Operations Control Center has dramatically improved the level of coordination between Metro and the region’s emergency responders,” Marc Bashoor, Prince George’s County Fire Chief said in a press release. “But we know that emergencies can happen at any hour, and that’s why I could not be more pleased that we have reached an agreement to expand the position around the clock for the safety of Metro passengers and employees.”

The liaison will also assist in creating updated saftey procedures and give emergency response training to rail controllers. Currently the fire department liaison works only through the weekday and for special events. The latest track fire incident occurred on Saturday, highlighting the need for additional personal, reports WTOP.

Metro officials say a “foreign object,” such as a dislodged chunk of metal from a train, hit the electrified third-rail, igniting the April 23 fire. Passengers reported hearing a loud noise and seeing a flash, followed by the glow of flames in the tunnel. Smoke filled some of the trains as passengers were moved toward rear railcars. Riders blasted Metro officials for poor communication, describing mass confusion in the smoke filled tunnel and people in tears, fearing for their lives. (RELATED: DC Metro Exec Says Dangerous Incidents ‘Will’ Keep Occurring)

Metro leaders are hopeful a 24 hour liaison will result in more efficient and clear responses to future fires.

Metro Transit Police Chief Ron Pavlik said in the press release, “Extending the hours of the fire and rescue liaison position at the Rail Operations Control Center ensures that first responders have ‘eyes and ears’ on Metrorail operations throughout the entire service day.”

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