Students escape injury in bus fire

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 9, 2001

No students were injured Thursday after fire damaged the engine and the cab of a bus on the first day of school this year.

At around 3:30 p.m., James Edwards, a bus driver with the Natchez-Adams School District, was taking about 20 students home from the Central Alternative School when the fire began, said George Dunkley, who coordinates transportation for the district.

The fire began a few blocks down Palestine Road when a transmission pump burst spewing flammable fluid on the vehicle’s manifold, Dunkley said.

&uot;(The fire) was fully involved at the front half,&uot; when firefighters arrived, said Natchez Fire Department Capt. David Freeman.

It took two to three minutes to put out the fire on bus No. 42, which also damaged the first three to four rows of seating on the bus, Freeman said.

The students had already evacuated the bus by the time firefighters arrived.

&uot;(Edwards) did everything right,&uot; Dunkley said. &uot;He did the fire extinguisher right. He did the evacuation right.&uot;

He then called the district’s bus barn from a nearby house to report the fire.

&uot;He said ‘It looks like it’s going to be catching on fire pretty soon,’&uot; said Dunkley, whose then contacted the fire department.

Afterwards, the students were transferred to another bus and taken home.

The students had been taught fire safety, and Dunkley said young people tend to remember the evacuation drills they learn in school.

Dunkley said he would not call it a rare occurrence for a transmission pump to break. One bus barn employee thought such a break had happened at least six times in the past 14 years, he said.