School bus inspections ordered after fire in Charlotte

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Hundreds of Thomas Built and Freightliner school buses in the Piedmont are being inspected after a similar bus caught fire near Charlotte two weeks ago.

The Department of Public Instruction ordered inspections of buses statewide after a fire engulfed the vehicle Feb. 8. The bus driver and six students quickly got off the bus and escaped injury.

Officials think the problem may exist on other Thomas Built Buses received by schools in 1998 and 1999.

The buses being inspected are widely used. For example, Guilford County Schools is inspecting 169 such buses, and Randolph County is inspecting 51 of the same model.

Curtis Stanley, assistant director for the GCS department of transportation, said mechanics are almost halfway done with the inspections.

The companies are still working on a detailed report on why the bus caught fire, but Stanley said wiring has been identified as a probable cause.

"What was happening is (a) wire was deteriorating and (a) wiring harness was falling down on the turbo," Stanley said.

DPI said in a statement they believe wires may have rubbed together, possibly causing an electrical short.

Stacey said mechanics haven't found any buses in danger of catching fire. All the buses should be inspected--or fixed, if necessary--by Tuesday.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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