1992-11-01

Bus Fires: Cause Determination and Recommendations 922456

Over a year's period I investigated fires in six large (about 70 passengers) city transit buses and a 19-passenger bus/van equipped with a wheelchair lift. In all cases there were no injuries or deaths, but this was mainly a result of luck and lightly-loaded buses-there could just as easily have been multiple injuries or fatalities in each case.
The causes were multiple-electrical, burst radiator hose, etc. But what I discovered was that whereas most fires originated in the engine compartments and effectively destroyed the engines, it was “other factors” which caused the fire to spread and destroy the entire vehicle. With proper attention to the “other factors,” the loss of a $200,000 bus could be averted and damage limited to the engine, at perhaps one-tenth the cost and with no risk to human life. These “other factors” will be discussed.
Buses contain a number of unique hazards. Often, they have a people-density much greater than would be allowed in a building by fire codes. They may be moving at speeds of 70 m.p.h. (or more!). The exits are often inadequate. There is the possibility of riders in wheelchairs, who would be nearest the front door. In the event of a fire, getting the wheelchair-bound passengers or passengers off first would delay getting the other passengers off.

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