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Monorail train catches fire in Seattle

Fire crews rescue passengers from smoky cars

Firefighters rescue passengers from the smoky train cars.
Seattle (Washington)

(CNN) -- A monorail train carrying passengers to a Memorial Day festival caught fire Monday afternoon in Seattle, Washington, and fire crews hurriedly rescued passengers from smoky cars about one story above ground.

At least five people were taken to Harborview Medical Center where they were being evaluated, a nursing supervisor said. She said none had burns.

"There was a pop and then we started seeing smoke," a shaken female passenger holding a child told KIRO-TV, a CNN affiliate. Asked if she felt in danger before rescuers arrived, the woman said, "We all did."

Dozens of emergency crews were on the scene. Firefighters used ladders, including one ladder truck, to reach the smoking train. Dozens of passengers crowded the open doors of the monorail awaiting rescue.

Fire Department spokeswoman Helen Fitzpatrick said it was not immediately clear what caused the fire and that an investigation has been launched.

"When our crews arrived, there was black smoke coming down Fifth Avenue and there were flames coming from the roof of one of the cars," she told CNN affiliate KING-TV.

She said firefighters had had previous experience in rescuing monorail passengers.

"People on the car were calm, and firefighters got them out safely," she said.

Glenn Barney, general manager of the Seattle Center Monorail, said he did not know what caused the fire.

Based on what he saw on television before heading to the scene, he said a red line train was being used to evacuate the blue line train that caught fire.

He said each monorail train can hold as many as 450 passengers.

Matt Christiansen, who shot home video at the scene, told KING-TV he saw smoke and sparks when he arrived.

"There were people screaming inside before the Fire Department got there," he said.

The monorail travels a mile between downtown Seattle and the Seattle Center Fairgrounds where the annual Memorial Day Folklife Festival was taking place. The fairgrounds were the site of the 1962 World's Fair.

The Seattle Center is the site of the Space Needle, Pacific Science Center and the Experience Music Project.

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