Bus fire caused by an electrical short

October 23, 2009

An electrical short in wiring caused a bus to catch fire Oct. 14, Duke officials said Friday.

Kemel Dawkins, vice president for Campus Services, said Duke is investigating whether a bus manufacturer’s defect may have caused the fire in the engine compartment of the 1997 Blue Bird bus.

As a safety precaution, three of the same Blue Bird models were immediately removed from transit service for inspection, Dawkins said.

“Our transit fleet is safe and reliable, and the safety of our students, faculty, staff and visitors is our primary concern,” Dawkins said. “We subject the fleet to rigorous and routine inspection.”

He said drivers visually inspect each bus daily and that buses also undergo a maintenance inspection every 90 days and an inspection, according to federal guidelines, by an outside company.

During their investigation, Duke transit officials discovered that the model of Blue Bird bus that caught fire was part of a manufacturer’s recall in 2001, Dawkins said. “But, to the best of our knowledge, we were not notified of the recall,” he said.

Duke has contracted with Carolina Livery to maintain the routes served by the three Blue Bird buses removed from service.

“We will not reintroduce those Blue Bird buses until we’ve identified the problem and fixed it, or know that the recall did not affect any of these buses,” Dawkins said.

Duke’s transit fleet includes 26 buses of various models. Transit officials said that in the 27 years of the university’s service, three buses have caught fire, all without injury.
Several students were on board Oct. 14 when the fire broke out on the C-1 bus as it traveled near the Graffiti Bridge. The fire was contained in the engine compartment. No one was injured.

The investigation is continuing.