School buses evacuated to escape nearby brush fire

June 9, 2009

By Adam Eschbach

A brush fire at the Issaquah School District Transportation Center prompted the evacuation of 20 school buses from the burning area at about 11:40 a.m. June 2. The flames were put out by 11:55 a.m. “I thought that a bus was on fire. There was a large billow of black smoke,” said Jesse Provine, a mechanic at the transportation center and the first on the scene.

Provine warned transit center staff to start moving buses, called Eastside Fire & Rescue and by the time he arrived back on the scene with a fire extinguisher, the brush fire had jumped the curb and was burning along the fenced area.

He said he thought the cottonwood seed fluff could have caught on fire, then the leaves, with flames making their way into the woods next to the Rainier Boulevard Trail.

The brush fire started near a portion the new 2008 Thomas buses, with regeneration exhaust systems.

At first, fire and district officials thought the new exhaust systems, which eject and burn diesel inside the muffler at very hot temperatures to burn off soot, could have sparked the flames. However, the cause of the fire remains undetermined, according to Sara Niegowski, the district communications director.

Fire investigators tried to recreate a situation where a bus’ exhaust system caused the fire, but couldn’t, she said.

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