PITSBURG – No one was injured when a Franklin Monroe school bus caught on fire Thursday afternoon while bringing students home after school.
It was toward the end of the bus’ route on Thursday when smoke started coming out of the front of the vehicle. The driver and three high school students on the bus were able to safely escape before flames overtook it.
“Obviously it’s a terrible situation, you hope these accidents never happen, but I do think it shows just a great response by our kids, by our driver, by our administration and just everyone to work together to not only make sure they’re safe – because obviously that’s the most important thing is to make sure the kids are safe, which was obviously everybody’s first priority – but then also after we make sure they’re safe to be able to communicate effectively, let parents know, let the community know what’s going on so they’re aware and to try to put them at ease and give them the information they need, too,” Franklin Monroe Superintendent Jeremy Pequignot said. “So I really think everybody did a great job with that. I’m really proud of my staff for that.”
The bus was driving on Grubbs-Rex Road near the Gordon-Landis Road intersection when smoke appeared. The driver was able to evacuate the students and radio to the school about the issue. A teacher, principal and school resource officer all responded to the scene along with the Arcanum and Pitsburg fire departments and Darke County Sheriff’s Office. A substitute bus arrived to transport the three students to their homes.
“All our buses have radios now, and it’s really nice because then not only can they communicate with each other but we have three base stations back here at the school so as soon as there’s any concern we can hear that on the radios right away and respond quickly,” Pequignot said.
Franklin Monroe directly contacted the parents of the three students and sent out a general One Call to let community members know about the incident.
FM hasn’t had any prior issues with its school buses catching on fire, Pequignot said.
“Not that I’m aware of to this extent,” he said. “Obviously we’ve had mechanical issues with buses before but not any fires or anything to this degree.”
The school has bus evacuation drills annually, Pequignot said, and Thursday was a reminder why they’re necessary.
“Each year we’re required to do bus evacuations,” he said. “It’s something we take seriously, and again the students go through that each year. Today is a really good example of why we do that.”
Pequignot was unsure how old the bus that caught on fire was, but he said inspections have been taking place.
“I know that the inspections were going on,” the superintendent said. “It’s quite possible it had just had a recent inspection. Obviously we don’t know what caused the fire, but that will be something hopefully we can find out.”