Fan Heater Motor Caused North Carolina School Bus Fire

March 17, 2012 by staff 

Fan Heater Motor Caused North Carolina School Bus Fire, A Charlotte-Mecklenburg school bus that caught fire Wednesday afternoon was the same make and model as other buses that have gone up in flames in North Carolina in the past two years, prompting state officials to send at least one cautionary memo to school systems.

State and local officials say they don’t think the cause of Wednesday’s fire in southeast Charlotte was the same as previous fires, but an inspector from Freightliner, the bus manufacturer’s parent company, is headed to Charlotte to determine the cause of the blaze.

Officials believe school bus No. 295 started emanating smoke and then caught fire because of a problem with a motor for a fan heater, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Associate Superintendent Guy Chamberlain.

No one was injured in the fire, which sent flames and black smoke high into the air. The bus driver, Lindora Richardson, and six students were on board. She moved the students to safety, lowering some out the back door. She was hailed as a hero on Thursday by CMS officials, even as video of the inferno was broadcast on national news stations.

The bus was a Freightliner FS-65 with a Thomas Built Buses body. Thomas Built, a Freightliner subsidiary, has a plant in High Point.

Seemingly spontaneous fires involving the buses have raised questions in other parts of the Carolinas in recent years. Television station WNCT in Greenville, N.C., investigated last year after a Thomas Built bus fire there. The station found that between 2010 and 2011, at least four of the five school buses that caught fire around the state were FS-65 buses.

Those buses were 10-12 years old. Bus No. 295 was 13 years old.

State officials told WNCT four of the fires were caused when wires in the engine compartment dropped onto the turbo manifold, an engine part that gets hot.

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