A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools bus caught fire Tuesday afternoon in southwest Charlotte, the second such incident within a month.
No students were aboard and the driver escaped uninjured when Bus 188 ignited near the intersection of Nations Ford and Downs Road. On Oct. 19 a CMS bus carrying 16 South Mecklenburg High students caught fire in east Charlotte; everyone was evacuated without major injury.
And the school year began with another scary episode, when a bus on its way to Garinger High lost its rear wheels on the second day of school. The huge wheels rolled into morning traffic and wrecked a car.
CMS officials have scheduled a Wednesday morning news conference to talk about the incidents.
The episodes come as CMS, which has more buses on the road than any other North Carolina school district, expands its busing to offer families more academic options. The district has committed to offering an expanded menu of magnets in the coming years, which requires more buses driving longer distances.
This year CMS has 1,078 buses running routes, compared with 740 in Wake County, which has more students. That’s up 25 from the previous school year.
The wheel incident was blamed on a mechanic’s error in failing to properly tighten lug nuts with a torque wrench after a brake replacement.
The district called in a team of experts to review the October bus fire, in which the front of the bus burst into flames. They found “no clear indication” of what caused the fire, and CMS inspected 250 buses with similar engines.
Tuesday’s fire also came from the front of the bus; video shot at the scene shows firefighters working to extinguish it as smoke pours from the engine. A statement from CMS says the driver smelled smoke, pulled over and got off before the bus ignited.