06/22/2010 // West Palm Beach, FL, USA // Sandra Quinlan // Sandra Quinlan
Chicago, IL—Nineteen subway commuters were hospitalized for smoke inhalation and other respiratory-related injuries after underground railroad ties caught fire Sunday evening, June 20, 2010. The extra-alarm blaze broke out on the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Red Line before 5 p.m., as reported by the Chicago Tribune.
According to Chicago Fire Department spokesperson Larry Langford, railroad ties have a tendency to catch fire due to elevated temperatures in the summer, though such cases are more common on elevated locomotives. “It’s rare on the subway. But it does happen occasionally,” Langford said.
Thick smoke began to infiltrate Red Line train cars, making it exceptionally difficult for riders to get oxygen, along with vital information from train operators. “We were given no instruction. We didn’t really know what was going on… I never saw flames, but there was a lot of smoke. Visibility was really bad,” 23-year-old subway rider Andrew Schad said.
The fire was sparked between the Red Line stops at Chicago Avenue and Clark/Division along the northbound tracks.
The locomotives eventually managed to reach a station, allowing travelers to safely disembark for the smoky trains. While medical personnel assessed those injured in the fire, firefighters went on to battle the small blaze. The fire was deemed under control by 6:18 p.m.
According to Richard Rosado of the Chicago Fire Department, 19 people, five of whom were in serious condition, were transported to area hospitals for treatment. Many others were seemingly treated at the scene.
CTA officials are expected to conduct an independent investigation as a means of determining whether train operators properly communicated with passengers during the incident. A probe into the fire was expected to be underway as well.
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