Nine passengers and the driver of a Camp Joy El school bus escaped injuries Thursday morning when an unknown mechanical failure caused the bus to catch fire along Lincoln Way West in Peters Township.
Smoke started coming from the engine compartment when the bus was in the 15000 block of Lincoln Way West, just west of Fort Loudon.
Fire Chief Dale Carbaugh of the MMP&W Fire Co. said, “The bus was pretty much engulfed in flames when we arrived on the scene with two engines. Thank goodness that everyone was able to escape safely. The bus actually came to a stop about 100 yards up the highway from where it’s sitting now prior to our arrival. Apparently the driver did apply the emergency brake, however the flames burnt through the brake lining and the bus began to roll backwards, striking the embankment. It crossed the highway and then struck a guardrail before coming to a complete stop. While traveling backwards, the wind swept the flames into the passenger area.”
Lt. Theo Arndt of West End Fire & Rescue Co. of Shippensburg said, “I was in my work truck traveling west when a passing motorist began to flick their headlights at me. As I traveled further coming around a turn, there was a man standing on the roadway flagging me down. I continued and grabbed my fire extinguisher out of my truck. At this time, there was only smoke coming from the engine compartment, then there was a small flame or two. I was extinguishing it when all of a sudden, the bus began to roll backwards, which scared me. The wind then swept the flames into the cab area and then into the passenger area. Oncoming traffic came to a stop and the bus didn’t strike any other vehicles. I then called 911 and gave them an update to give to the responding units. By this time, the entire bus was engulfed in flames.”
Carbaugh said, “The bulk of the fire was brought under control within 15 minutes. A second bus was called to the scene to pick up the passengers. The cause is unknown, however probably due to something mechanical.”
Pennsylvania State Police-Chambersburg were on the scene investigating the fire since the bus was in motion when the fire started.
Emergency personnel from Mercersburg EMS, PennDOT, Dave’s Towing and Fire Police assisted on the scene.