NEWS RELEASES 2011-12 :: FEBRUARY 22, 2012


The NC Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) School Transportation section has directed all local school system transportation departments to perform special inspections to help prevent a situation similar to the one that appears to have caused the Feb. 8 school bus fire in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district. Preliminary reviews and inspections of the bus that caught on fire point to the rubbing of the intake heater wire against the metal heater shutoff valve to the point that the wire covering was worn through possibly causing a short and the subsequent fire.

NCDPI School Transportation Services Section Chief Derek Graham said that he and his team are seeking clarification from Thomas Built Buses, but it appears probable that the buses with this situation are most likely from bus shipments received between summer 1998 through 1999.

Although Thomas Built Buses is completing a more detailed and exhaustive report on the Feb. 8 bus fire, local transportation officials should inspect all of the school buses and activity buses in this date range for similar wiring issues. A memorandum and inspection message was sent yesterday to all local school district transportation departments.

"We were very fortunate that the incident earlier this month did not result in any injuries to students or the bus driver," said Graham. "In that situation, only six students were on the bus, and the school bus driver reacted quickly and evacuated all students well before flames entered the passenger area. Now that we have more information about the likely cause of this fire, we want to use this information to be more diligent in preventing any other incidents."

Although initial reports indicated that the fire started in the switch panel to the left of the driver, further inspection pointed to worn wire coverings as a likely cause.

In North Carolina, approximately 13,700 school buses transport public school students to school. According to the National Academy of Sciences, a child is more than 13 times safer in a school bus than the average safety record of other ways of transporting students to school and home again.

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 160 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.