A Blue Bird school bus fire over the weekend was caused by the left front-wheel end assembly, company officials said Tuesday in a statement. The bus was powered by propane-autogas.
An independent fire investigator confirmed that the safety features of the propane fuel delivery system and fuel tanks functioned properly and that the fire was in no way related to the fueling system. Blue Bird officials confirmed that two popping sounds heard within five minutes of each other were in fact the tires rupturing from the heat of the fire, as was previously reported by the local Times-Free Press.
The 71-passenger, conventional bus was en route to be delivered to an out-of-state bus dealer when the fire began. Blue Bird said the ignition was off at the time. The bus had just been parked when the vehicle's front end ignited. There were no injuries.
Meanwhile, Blue Bird transported the bus to its Fort Valley, Ga., plant to complete a thorough investigation. An independent fire investigator concluded that the fire likely was caused by friction in the left front wheel end area. The company's findings concluded that this was an isolated event.
"This incident strongly reinforces the safety of the propane autogas system on our buses," said Phil Horlock, president and CEO of Blue Bird Corporation. "As a result of the safeguards on the propane autogas system, the fuel tanks were not compromised in this fire."
He added that the safety record of propane autogas in school buses is "outstanding." There have been no propane-related fires or injuries with any Blue Bird school buses, and he said all Blue Bird buses meet or exceed comprehensive federal and state safety specifications.
"There are over 21 million propane-fueled vehicles on the road that travel hundreds of millions of miles a year, and propane has proven to be a safe and efficient fuel," Horlock added. "At Blue Bird, safety is our top priority."