Eyewitness account of Red Line "self-evacuation," fire
Daneel contributes this account of his fun ride to work this morning. He also made good contributions on the mess on our CTA wireless alerts network. Thanks!
STRANDED UNDERGROUND ON RED LINE THIS MORNING
Good times on the Red Line this morning...
Boarded at Chicago station around 9:25 AM on first car. After leaving Clark/Division, train stopped for about ten minutes. Operator exited train with fire extinguisher and then came back on. Supervisor insisted operator get train moving and ordered him to run the train at 6 miles/hour which he did for about 50 ft.
At that point, the train stopped suddenly and the operator radioed a fire on the third rail. Upon hearing the radio call, myself and several passengers looked out the window and clearly SAW a small fire about 20 feet ahead of us on the third rail. The flames were yellow, not blue; it was not an arc it was a FIRE (could have been initially caused by arcing, though). You could see and smell smoke but it was not heavy in the air. The power was then removed. Operator exited car with fire extinguisher and put fire out. CTA is now claiming to the media that there was no fire which is a LIE.
We then sat there for 2.5 hours while supervisors yelled at each other walking back and forth on the tunnel ledge with flashlights. People in cars behind us were pushing the 'operator' button asking what is going on, reporting an asthma attack, and making it clear they wanted off the train now. Several announcements were made indicating the track was damaged and to stay on the train.
Conditions toward the end were BAD. No air circulating so the usual CTA train/passenger BO smells were much worse. People were smoking cigarettes (which caused some passengers to think there was another fire).
Finally, CFD came by and said we would evacuate. We all walked through the train to the last car and walked the edge of the tunnel to an emergency exit which eventually let us out a trap door at Division & Orleans.
After I got out, I was asked if I needed medical attention, which I did not. No shuttle buses available. I got on the 22 bus for Rogers Park where I work.
Overall, I would say the evacuation was poorly organized and little communication to passengers stranded and scared underground for quite a while. Good thing is no one was injured.