November 5, 2009

SEPTA investigating railroad car fire

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is working with the Philadelphia Fire Department and various local, state and federal authorities on an investigation into a fire aboard a railroad car in West Philadelphia on Wednesday.

The fire broke out at about 6:50 a.m. aboard the lead car of the four-car train approximately one mile east of SEPTA's Overbrook Station - minutes before that, the crew reported a burning odor coming from the lead car. Per standard operating procedure, all passengers on the lead car were evacuated into the three other cars on the train, and the train was to continue to 30th Street Station and then taken out of service.

The engineer then reported heavy smoke aboard the train, and a full evacuation was immediately ordered. Within minutes of the safe evacuation of all passengers and the train crew, the lead car was fully engulfed in flames. A nearby Regional Rail train adjacent to the one on fire was also safely evacuated.

None of the estimated 1,000 passengers evacuated from these two trains required hospitalization. One was assisted at the scene by emergency medical personnel. The three SEPTA crew members were taken to a hospital for observation, but were not injured.

James Jordan, SEPTA's assistant GM, public and operational safety, said the fire was most likely related to the electrical or heating system on the train. SEPTA officials say there is no indication the fire was intentionally set - and the incident is in no way connected to the current strike by the Transport Workers Union Local 234 involving SEPTA City Transit Division workers.

SEPTA will make a full, public report after the fire investigation is complete. The train car was destroyed by the flames, and has been secured at a SEPTA facility for examination.

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