School bus fire at Holly Springs High linked to worn wire
Posted December 3, 2019 7:02 a.m. EST
Updated December 5, 2019 5:16 p.m. EST
Holly Springs, N.C. — Wake County public school officials said Thursday that a bus fire could have been caused by a "worn spot on a wire" that was located near a newly replaced engine in the vehicle.
Wake County Public Schools System spokeswoman Lisa Luten said the blaze on Tuesday prompted a preliminary investigation, which found that the vehicle was taken out of service last February to have its engine replaced.
The bus was placed back into service in November, and experienced a malfunction that led to the bus fire.
Officials have said a child was alone on a school bus right before it caught fire Tuesday morning at Holly Springs High School. It’s the second Wake County school bus fire in two months.
Luten said the driver had started the bus and went inside the school. When the driver came back outside, the bus was on fire.
According to Luten, maintenance staff noticed the bus was smoking, and the child got off before flames showed.
The child was not a student at the school, officials said.
Luten said drivers are not supposed to leave running buses unattended.
All buses are inspected each month, Luten said, and the fire will be investigated.
On Thursday, Luten said in a written statement that out of 870 buses in the district's fleet, 48 are of the same make and model similar to the one that caught fire. She said 20 of those buses contain replaced engines.
"On Tuesday afternoon, we immediately began inspections of these twenty buses and installing protective coverings on the wires leading to the alternator," she said in the statement. "These tasks were completed on most of these buses by Tuesday afternoon with the remaining buses to be inspected and updated with the wire covering by Saturday. In addition, we’re also contracting with a different third-party vendor to conduct an additional review regarding the cause of the fire."
Sky 5 video showed the front of the bus charred after the fire was extinguished. Firefighters were still on the scene at 7 a.m.
Holly Springs High School's office opens at 7 a.m., and the school day begins at 7:25 a.m., according to the school’s website. No students were on campus when the fire started, Luten said.
On the afternoon of Oct. 3, a bus caught fire in Cary with a driver and Highcroft Elementary School student on board. Both made it off safely.
Records show that bus was cleared from its monthly inspection an hour before the fire was reported.
The bus, No. 1122, had several problems noted in earlier inspections, including overheating and ignition problems. It underwent repairs over the summer, officials said.