Fire departments still feel effects of Metro’s L’Enfant Plaza smoke

WASHINGTON — Months after a woman died from thick, choking smoke that filled Metro trains at L’Enfant Plaza , area fire departments find their operations are still affected by the deadly incident.

At a briefing before the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments on Wednesday, Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor told area leaders that departments are being called to Metro incidents more often.

Bashoor says news reports of Metro delays from “fire activity on a track” are now a common occurrence. He says that’s “because of somebody’s awareness of either smoke, or a spark, or something in the system.”

Along with the public’s increased awareness — and concerns over safety — there’s also been a policy change. Instead of sending their own staff to check out reports of smoke on the tracks, Bashoor says Metro officials now call 911 directly.

Bayshoor says the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) hopes to have a Fire/Rescue Liaison stationed at its Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC) by July 1. The officer in that position would make sure there’s adequate coordination between WMATA and first responders during an incident, as well as develop policy recommendations, including corrective actions.

Fire departments also have agreed with Metro to have equipment (i.e. bi-directional amplifiers) that will allow emergency workers to establish communications within 20-30 minutes if Metro’s radio communications fail inside the tunnels. Bashoor says grant money is being sought to make sure all jurisdictions will be equipped with the tactical devices.

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