Photo showing firefighter using an Arcair Slice exothermic cutting torch. Image by City of Fairfax Fire Department.

Metro’s 1000 series railcars started riding off off into the sunset in last year, when word came down that Metro would start retiring them as new 7000 series cars came online. While most of the old cars are now just scraps, some are leading second lives as testing grounds for local fire departments.

Several photos posted online last week show City of Fairfax firefighters at Metro’s Greenbelt Yard keeping up their skills.

Image by City of Fairfax Fire Department.

Over the course of three days, the department practiced ripping cars apart, learned the best ways to enter cars through windows and walls, and heard from Metro staff how the 7000s differ from the legacy cars they were practicing on.

It’s important for all the local jurisdictions to have experience dealing with emergencies on Metro property-- situations that call for heavy fire department support might be rare, but they do happen. Hands-on experience is important so that first responders can be properly prepared when they have to rescue someone in emergency. Not only does it help them speed the rescue, but it allows them to also ensure their own safety.

After the L’Enfant smoke incident in 2015 where Yellow Line train 302 filled with smoke and a passenger died of smoke inhalation, Metro identified a list of 10 “early action items” for the agency to perform in order to begin rectifying some of the safety lapses identified leading to the passenger’s death.

One of the items on the list was to set up quarterly security drills involving simulated train incidents on the actual tracks instead of just a paper “tabletop” exercise. These exercises allow Metro, the police, and the fire departments to test and examine what they need to improve when responding to trains in various emergencies - smoke, fire, and derailments, to make a few. While firefighters can’t cut up railcars still actively in use, they can use the old cars Metro gets rid of to get some of that practice in.

This use of old 1000 railcars is a win for everybody involved. The fire departments get hands-on practice with the cars and Metro gets to help build its relationship with the departments to help with future collaboration.

A firefighter making a large entryway into a railcar. Image by City of Fairfax Fire Department.

The City of Fairfax Fire Department noted on Facebook, “One very big lesson learned thanks to the hands-on aspect of this training was that despite any tool you could imagine being available..., the quickest options were often the most basic tools combined with some good instruction from WMATA's people on what holds things together and where exactly it can best come apart.”

The practice also allowed the fire department to learn of an issue between the cutting torch and some “interior components of the wall burning.” As a result, the agency won’t use that tool during Metro railcar-related emergencies.

Check here for the department’s full collection of photos from their training.

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Stephen Repetski is a Virginia native and has lived in the Fairfax area for over 20 years. He has a BS in Applied Networking and Systems Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology and works in Information Technology. Learning about, discussing, and analyzing transit (especially planes and trains) is a hobby he enjoys.