Fire destroys RFTA bus; no one hurt | AspenTimes.com

Fire destroys RFTA bus; no one hurt

Mark Fox/The Aspen Times Bill Harding, fire marshall with the Basalt Fire Department, looks over the charred interior of a RFTA bus, which caught on fire just west of Basalt Wednesday morning, Dec 13, 2005

Basalt firefighters said it’s fortunate a Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus wasn’t in service this morning when a fire apparently started at the rear axle and spread to the passenger compartment.

“This could have been a mass-casualty situation if the bus was full,” said Bob Guion, a captain with the Basalt and Rural Fire District. Instead, no one was injured in the blaze.

The fire gutted the bus shortly after 10 a.m. while a driver was “dead-heading” or delivering the empty bus to Carbondale. The 2002 Neoplan bus had been in service during the morning rush hour, although the specific routes weren’t immediately available.

The driver was headed downvalley when he pulled off Highway 82 and into a park-and-ride on Two Rivers Road. He sensed the bus was handling oddly, as if the parking brake was engaged, according to Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson. He heard small explosions or pops, stopped the bus, then discovered fire and tried to put it out with an extinguisher carried on the vehicle, according to RFTA and fire department authorities. The driver’s name wasn’t available.

Guion and Jerry Peetz, the fire department’s operations director, were the first firefighters to arrive on the scene. Peetz said they found flames shooting from the rear axle area and from the passenger compartment at the back of the bus. The windows were blowing out from the heat as they ramped up their efforts.

“The flames were coming out 10 feet from every window,” Peetz said. “The entire [left] side was on fire.”

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Using a fire hose, they attacked the right side of the bus first because it was a dozen feet or so from several cars parked at the site. None of those vehicles appeared to suffer heat damage.

Peetz and Guion broke out windows in the front of the bus for additional access to the flames. After reducing the size of the fire, they entered the 65-foot vehicle with a hose and attacked the flames head-on.

Guion said he could only see a few feet in front of him because the smoke was so thick. He said it was impossible to gauge how far into the bus they were while trying to knock the flames down.

Witnesses reported a huge ball of white smoke billowed over the scene. Two Rivers Road was closed by Basalt police.

Guion said a fire in the passenger compartment could be potentially fatal because of the toxic gases released by various materials. The interior includes foam seats and upholstry, a wooden floor board and foam plastic in the ceiling.

“That stuff wouldn’t be good to breath in,” he said.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com