TOMS RIVER, NJ
Authorities are investigating the cause of a fire that consumed multiple school buses in New Jersey overnight.
Dramatic photos from the scene show at least two buses completely engulfed in flames. Toms River police say three buses were extensively damaged by the 2:40 a.m. fire on the south side of Route 37; a pickup truck had minor damage.
Officials say a police officer was on patrol along the highway when he smelled smoke. He searched the area and found the vehicles ablaze. Firefighters from two local companies responded and doused the flames.
Police say the damaged vehicles are owned by the Toms River School District and were inside the transportation area at the time they caught fire. Officers remained at the scene Friday morning. Their investigation is ongoing.
THE FIRE RISK OF SCHOOL BUS
During the five-year period of 1999-2003, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 2,210 bus or school bus fires per year. These fires caused an estimated annual average of three civilian deaths, 30 civilian injuries, and $24.2 million in direct property damage per year. In 1999-2003, bus or school bus fires accounted for 1% of the total reported vehicle fires, 1% of the vehicle fire deaths, 2% of the vehicle fire injuries, and 2% of the vehicle fire property damage. On average, six bus or school bus fires were reported every day.
Buses present a unique combination of heavy work cycles and the use of various aftermarket electrical accessories that place them at risk for fires. An important step in preventing future incidents is in understanding what has caused fires in the past. The causes of bus fires generally fall into three distinct categories: electrical, friction at the wheel level, and engine component failures. Many of these incidents could have been prevented with an improved maintenance and inspection program.