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How Metro cut track fires by more than half

New data released Friday shows fires on Metro are at a three-year low. The transit agency says the stats are a sign it's getting better and that fixes are working.

Metro says track fires that repeatedly beleaguered the transit agency and commuters are down by more than half in three years’ time. 

“Metro will end 2018 with the lowest number of insulator-related smoke/fire incidents in years – 66 percent fewer compared to 2016 – despite record rainfall this year,” said a WMATA news release of new data out Friday.

There were 65 such fires in 2016, said Metro, followed by 54 and 2017. This year, Metro says there have only been 22 arcing insulator fires.

Metro insists the numbers are reason to celebrate thanks in part to its work to stop leaks in older tunnels which were bored before the advent of modern waterproofing techniques.

Rain is the Achilles’ heel of the Red Line between Friendship Heights and Medical Center where tunnels where trickling water mixes with the electrified, 750-volt third rail. Almost half of Metro fires in 2016 were in that stretch of tracks. This year, there were only three of them.

Metro is also using this data to drive home another point about service. Shortened hours means fewer trains, but more room for maintenance overnight. Metro says crews now have more time to fix leaks and clear track beds.

Read more about the new data here.