Investigation underway for cause of school bus fire in Maplewood, Minnesota

The people of Richfield, Minnesota are still buzzing about a dramatic school bus fire that left a middle school basketball team stranded along a busy interstate. 

Fortunately, no one was hurt, as the district credits the bus driver for his quick thinking.

Lieutenant Brian Reu oversees the Minnesota State Patrol unit responsible for the annual inspection of every single school bus on Minnesota roads. He reports that, on average, there is at least one school bus fire every day in the U.S.

While Lt. Reu can’t talk specifics of Monday's fire on I-494, he believes student evacuation training paid off when it mattered most.

“They revert to what they’re trained. Typically, there is one specific person who often times will stand up and take charge,” he said.

The district singled out the driver’s quick thinking in keeping everyone safe along the interstate Monday afternoon.

“They did a great job of getting the kids out of the bus. I’m sure it was kinda hectic because no one had experienced that before. For that, I am thankful,” said Renne Ekholm, whose son was on the bus.

An investigation is now underway to determine the cause of the fire that eventually gutted the four-year-old Richfield school bus. The district reports the bus and its entire fleet passed state inspection just last month. Lt. Reu said those inspections include checks on the engine, lights, safety equipment and when it comes to fire concerns, wiring.

“Traditionally, where they typically occur is either the engine compartment or around the wheel well area if a wheel seal goes out. Often times, it’s an electrical-related issue, so we’re checking the wiring to make sure there are no wires exposed or fraying wires touching,” he said.