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Service restored on Orange Line after track fire near Wellington

Orange Line passengers capture footage of track fire
They were evacuated from the train and walked toward Wellington Station. (Mark Gartsbeyn / Globe Correspondent)

MEDFORD — Service on part of the MBTA’s Orange Line was suspended Friday afternoon after a track fire between Wellington and Malden Center stations.

Trains between Community College and Oak Grove were replaced by shuttle buses after the fire was reported around 3:10 p.m., MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said. Train service was partially restored by 4:45 p.m. and fully restored shortly before 7 p.m., the T said.

Passengers on one train were evacuated and walked toward Wellington Station, Pesaturo said. One person reportedly fell while getting off the train, but the injury was described as minor.

Pesaturo said the T was working to identify the cause of the fire.


“The MBTA apologizes to its customers whose commutes were disrupted today,” said Pesaturo.

The mishap came a day after passengers riding the Green Line between North Station and Lechmere were diverted to shuttle buses. This summer has been a rough one for the MBTA, long known for delays, breakdowns, and other issues. A June 11 derailment on the Red Line badly damaged a signaling system, leading to weeks of issues on that line.

On Friday afternoon, images on social media showed orange flames on the tracks under an Orange Line train at the entrance to a tunnel.

Passenger Kim Vanderbeck said she saw sparks “that were a little too bright and a little too orange” under her train.

She said some people panicked after the train halted and smoke began to seep in. “There was one woman who was just screaming, ‘Help, there’s a fire, there’s a fire!’” she said.

Passengers getting off the train had to jump 3 or 4 feet down to the track bed, including one elderly couple, Vanderbeck said. First responders then led them to safety, cutting a hole for them to escape through a chain-link fence.


Vanderbeck said she never felt like she was in danger. “I’m a little jaded at this point with the MBTA,” she said.

A hole was cut in the fence so passengers could leave the track right of way.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Medford Deputy Fire Chief John Freedman said crews from his department and Malden firefighters responded to the scene shortly after 3:15 p.m. The fire occurred near the Malden/Medford line, he said.

“The wheels and that assembly under the train, that’s what was burning,” Freedman said.

Crews initially used dry chemical powder extinguishers on the blaze, because the third rail was still electrified.

“You don’t want to put water on the third rail,” Freedman said.

Once the third rail was turned off, crews fought the fire with water, he said. It took about 10 minutes to extinguish the blaze.

More than 25 firefighters responded to the scene, and authorities shut down both inbound and outbound sides of the Orange Line, as well as commuter rail service in that area, said Freedman.

Orange Line riders waited for shuttle buses near Community College Station on Friday.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Some firefighters went into the train and helped evacuate passengers, Freedman said. The passengers had to walk on the tracks for about a quarter-mile to Wellington, he said.

Forty buses provided replaced Orange Line service while crews responded to the scene, and on Friday afternoon, dozens of commuters waited outside Wellington for shuttle buses.

Ruth Madebo, 28, of Malden, said she was frustrated by the T’s response to the incident. She thought the agency could have done a better job explaining to riders what happened, where the shuttle buses were headed, and what their transit options were.


Madebo was headed into Boston, where she works at a hotel. The Orange Line delays meant she was going to be late.

“You leave your own house thinking you can make it to work on time,” she said.

She added, “It’s just the T.”

Kristina Seavey, 21, came down from New Hampshire to visit her friend in Boston and had planned to take the Orange Line inbound.

“We’re just confused,” she said outside Wellington. “Do you know how we get to Mass. Ave.?”

Jonathan Louis Simon, 26 of Everett, was already running late. He was trying to make it to South Station, and from there to Cape Cod, he said. He had bags of his belongings, including a guitar, on the sidewalk outside Wellington, but had a calm outlook on the Orange Line delays.

“It is what it is,” he said.

Inside the station, a T employee stood near turnstiles and gave commuters the bad news: “No trains, shuttle buses.”

Andrew Langin, 27, had just left work and was headed downtown. He was resigned to having a longer journey than usual.

“To be expected,” he said when told of the track fire.

Commuter rail service between Boston and Haverhill on the Haverhill/Reading line was also affected.

Watch: Fire on Orange Line tracks

Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report.