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Lot blaze destroys Lee County school buses

May 12, 2013
Lee County school buses burned
Lee County school buses burned: Four Lee County school buses burned at the Lee School District's East Transportation Zone lot on Buckingham Road. Video by Mike Braun
Robert K. Morgan, executive director of transportation for the Lee County School district, said the destruction of four buses at the district's east transportation zone lot Sunday won't hamper classes today. / Mike Braun/The News-Press
No cause has been determined for a fire Sunday morning at the Lee County School District's east lot. / Mike Braun/The News-Press

View Buckingham Exceptional School in a larger map


Classes in the Lee County School District’s East Zone won’t be hampered by the destruction of four buses worth nearly $500,000 and possible damage to six others in a fire Sunday morning, a school official said.

Robert K. Morgan, executive director of transportation for the district, said buses from around the district would be shuttled in as replacements for those destroyed or damaged.

He said the replacements will not have air conditioning and several hundred students affected could find their morning and afternoon bus trips a bit warmer than usual until the last day of school on May 23. The forecast is for temperatures in the mid to high 80s for the week.

Each bus has a capacity for 72 students so from 300 to 700 children could be affected.

The Tice Fire and Rescue District, school officials and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office are looking into the cause of the 4:30 a.m. fire at the district’s Transportation East Zone behind Buckingham Exceptional School. Morgan said no cause was evident and all possibilities were being looked at.

“It’s very unusual for buses to sit like this and catch fire,” he said, noting he knew of only two cases the past 12 years where a school bus caught fire like that.

Morgan also said someone from the bus manufacturer, IC Corp. of Illinois, would be here Wednesday and examine the vehicles as well.

“We don’t want to rule anything out or imply anything,. Anything could have happened,” he said. “I think we’d be wise to let the collaborative team and the sheriff’s office come together and take a look at this. We’ll know in the next couple of days.”

He said the 150-bus lot behind the school has video surveillance that will be looked at as part of the examination of evidence.

Lee County Sheriff’s office spokesman Lt. Larry King said the state fire marshal was involved with the sheriff’s office providing assistance.

Patrick Hayhurst, the school district’s director of security, said any action to enhance security will not be taken until after the state fire marshal visits.

“It all depends on what the fire marshal finds out,” Hayhurst said. “If it was an accident then there’s really nothing more I can do than what we are doing.”

Morgan could not say if the buses had been used over the weekend for a field trip or other school-related activity or if student transport Friday afternoon was their last movement.

The four 2006 model buses that were destroyed — all with GPS, air conditioning and related equipment — are worth about $110,000 each, he said, and could have been used for about six more years.

Morgan said reports of a fire at the bus lot were called in between 4:30-5:30 a.m. Sunday with Tice Fire and Rescue units, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and school district officials responding.

Six other 2006 model buses parked on either side of the four will be given a going over to look for smoke and other damage, Morgan said.

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