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Metro commuters evacuated after smoke fills tunnels in downtown L.A. station

7th Street/Metro Center station evacuated

L.A. County sheriff’s Deputy Rich Faulk conducts a sweep with his dog, Clyde, in downtown Los Angeles after the 7th Street/Metro Center train stop was evacuated after smoke began to fill the station.

(Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

Commuters were evacuated from a major Metro rail hub in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday morning and trains turned back from the station after smoke from an unknown source began to fill the subway tunnels, officials said.

Passengers waiting for trains at the 7th Street/Metro Center station reported seeing smoke coming from the eastbound and westbound subway tunnels as a Red Line train arrived about 10:07 a.m.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority evacuated the station and cut power to the third rail so the Los Angeles Fire Department could walk down the tracks and investigate the source of the smoke, but fire personnel did not find anything, Metro spokeswoman Anna Chen said. 

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“They’re assuming it must be some kind of unknown fire, but they did not find a source,” Chen said. “They did a very thorough inspection with our personnel. But they did not find anything." 

Red and Purple Line trains will stop at Pershing Square and Wilshire/Vermont, and Blue and Expo Line trains at Pico, until the smoke has been cleared from the station and tunnels.   

“Obviously, the smoke didn’t come out of nowhere, and the Metro engineers are going to take a real close look at it to see what’s going on," Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Ramon Montenegro said. 

Jasmin Martin, 26 of Long Beach, had just gotten off a train at the station’s Blue Line platform, a level above the Red Line tracks, and noticed that the air was slightly hazy.

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She walked toward the stairwell down to the Red Line tracks and peered over the edge. A Red Line train pulled into the station and passengers exited the train, covering their mouths and coughing, she said. 

“It looked like a fog,” Martin said. “It wasn’t thick, black, smoke, like from a fire. But it was enough to where you didn’t want to be down there." 

By the time all the passengers had exited the train, smoke filled the train platform area, she said. Then fire alarms started going off.

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The Metro Center closure came three hours after the Los Angeles Unified School District canceled school after receiving what officials said was a “credible” threat against multiple campuses. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said later Tuesday that the threat appeared to be a hoax.

Among the commuters on the station platforms were children who appeared to be in elementary and middle school, Martin said. Metro offered free bus and train rides to LAUSD students until noon Tuesday.

Officials said the incident did not appear to be connected to the LAUSD threat. 

This article will be updated. 

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For more transportation news, follow @laura_nelson on Twitter.

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