Track Fire Forces Evacuations On MBTA Orange Line

MEDFORD, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — Service on part of the MBTA's Orange Line was suspended Friday afternoon after a fire on the tracks between the Wellington and Malden Center stops.

Shuttle buses are now replacing service between the Wellington and Oak Grove stops, and the T is telling riders to expect delays upward of 20 minutes.

Firefighters at the scene told WBZ NewsRadio's Nichole Davis fire happened in a tunnel outside Wellington Station shortly after 3 p.m., and several hundred people had to be evacuated.

The MBTA said power was shut off to the tracks and passengers were led to Wellington Station. The Associated Press reported one person had minor injuries after falling while exiting the train.

The cause of the fire wasn't yet known.

One passenger who was on the train, Kim Vanderbeck, told WBZ NewsRadio passengers saw what they initially thought were sparks as they passed through a tunnel—but it soon became evident it was a fire.

"There were some people that were very panicked and screaming and banging on doors," she said, while others were more calm and waiting for instructions from T officials.

Steve, a rider from Stoneham who was on the train, described the confusion to WBZ NewsRadio's Karyn Regal.

"It's a disgrace, they don't know what they're doing," he said. "There's no direction, they're on a train that's full of smoke. They make us walk all the way through ... Then we had to walk all the way to Malden Station so they could bring us here to Wellington. We only had one more stop to go ... It wasn't too bad, I'm 66, but I mean, there were elderly people there too, and they had quite a struggle."

Videos posted to social media showed people walking down the Orange Line tracks.

After a summer of repeated issues across the transit system, Vanderbeck said she wasn't exactly surprised by Friday's developments.

"This is terrible, but it was mostly just like, LOL, this is the T," she said. "I was actually just joking with my friend last week that the Orange Line was due for a derailment any day, so, this is pretty close."

Transit riders did not suffer in silence, however, as #orangeline and #mbtafail trended on Twitter in Boston through the evening.

Other users lamented the shuttle bus situation, sharing photos of large crowds at Community College and saying there was nobody on hand to provide directions.

"Anyone who's been involved with the T for the last 30 years should be in jail," one rider told WBZ NewsRadio's Carl Stevens. "It's the worst-run thing I've ever seen in my life. It's pathetic."

Mayor Marty Walsh responded to the fire Friday evening, calling for "critical investment now and improved public transportation for all."

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu noted that every MBTA line was struggling, not just the Orange Line—and called for a larger response to the issues from Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.

The train involved did not contain any of the new cars that were introduced to the line last week.

The shutdowns also affected several Commuter Rail trains on the Haverhill line. The fire shut down Commuter Rail service to Malden Center, which was later restored.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

(Photo: Nichole Davis/WBZ NewsRadio)

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