Surrounding districts are stepping up to help after a fire broke out at the Wyandotte Public Schools bus barn in northeastern Oklahoma and destroyed 10 of the district’s 15 school buses.
According to surveillance video, the fire started around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday. “In about 30 minutes the whole thing went up,” said Superintendent Troy Gray. A resident who lived nearby called to report explosions, which Gray explained sounded like tires exploding, and the fire department was at the scene before 11 p.m.
A video taken on-scene by local news station KODE showed that four fire departments responded to the scene. Several eyewitnesses commented that they live near the bus barn and could hear explosions while the fire was still ablaze.
“We run 10 buses a day so we did lose the biggest part of our fleet,” Gray told School Transportation News. The buses that were lost were acquired between 2005 and 2014. Additionally, the entire bus barn was destroyed and a maintenance truck was also lost.
Three of the district’s regular buses were saved because they had been parked off-site at drivers’ homes, and one was pulled out of the bus barn before the flames could damage it. Gray said that bus is in “perfect condition.” One spare bus was also unharmed.
“Due to the loss of our bus barn and most of our buses, Wyandotte Schools will be canceled on Thursday and Friday. Students will also be out on Monday due to Martin Luther King Day,” school officials posted on Facebook.
“As people do, our neighboring districts have rallied behind us and offered us buses until we can get something in place,” Gray added. Miami Public Schools in Oklahoma and Missouri’s Seneca R-7 Schools and Carl Junction Schools just across the border are loaning WPS a total of seven school buses so normal school operations can resume on Tuesday.
“We also had a school district in Caney, Kansas and they had a bus that they used as a spare. Their board did an emergency meeting and surplused that bus and they’re driving it down here right now to just donate it to us,” Gray said. “It kind of left me speechless.”
The cause of the fire remained under investigation at this report. “We speculate right now, whether it was set intentionally by somebody or whether it was electrical,” Gray said. He added that state fire marshals have already arrived at the scene and the district’s insurance company was expected to dispatch claims agents.
“You know for us, just like anybody, money’s tight in the school business,” Gray shared. Based on the insurance report, he said, the district would decide whether to lease or buy school buses or potentially use bonds.
“We’ll get through it, that’s what you do. We have a strong community and strong schools, and surrounding communities have been a blessing for us,” Gray said optimistically. “All we can do is move forward and get ready to educate kids—that’s what we do.”
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