Wake County bus fire highlights need for fire suppression systems


HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. (WNCN) — A fire onboard a Wake County school bus this morning is the second one in 3 months to break out.

The U.S. Department of Transportation says school buses are the safest vehicles on the road — but it also says one to two school buses burn every day in this country.

That surprises some parents.

“I would think they’d be more maintained,” says parent Heather Bruno.

Wake County school bus 309 caught fire outside of Holly Springs High School on Tuesday morning.

When the flames were spotted school officials tried unsuccessfully to fight it with fire extinguishers after a child in the care of the bus driver was safely removed from the bus.

It’s the second time a fire erupted in a Wake County bus recently.

Back in October, a passerby caught a bus burning in Cary and recorded it on home video.

One student and the bus driver evacuated. No one was hurt in that incident either.

When it comes to school bus fires a federal government study says they occur more frequently than fires in regular buses and the majority start on the engine compartment.

That’s where turbochargers make the engines run hotter in a space where oil and other fluids can collect over time.

“If you are not cleaning up those fuels periodically they build up and once you combine that build up with the extreme amount of heat from a turbocharger you’re gonna have an issue,” said Marc Dinovo who is a senior engineer Fire Trace International.

The NTSB recommends all school busses have fire suppression systems in the engine compartment but when Consumer Investigator Steve Sbraccia brought the issue the attention state Dept public instruction in October they said:

“DPI transportation Services is aware that these recommendations have been made. We monitor actions by NTSB. To our knowledge, none of these recommendations has been acted upon.”

In other words, the state won’t require fire suppression systems in school buses.

“I think it should be required,” said Bruno. “We put our kids on the bus thinking they’re going to be safe and that’s not reassuring to us as parents.”

Documents CBS 17 obtained show school buses in the state are only required to have three kinds of fire safety equipment – a fire blanket, fire block upholstery fabric and a fire extinguisher.

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