The day the school bus caught fire in Westmoreland

by: Courtesy of James Barta <i>BEE</i> reader James Barta photographed the small school bus while it was fully involved in flames, as dawn broke at about at S.E. 18th and Claybourne in Westmoreland.

At approximately 7:36 am on Friday, November 18, PPS school bus driver Kay Brown was driving her normal route to take six students to Llewellyn Elementary School. On the way, at the corner of S.E. 18th and Claybourne in Westmoreland, Brown detected an odor of smoke coming from the engine compartment of the bus.

Concerned for the safety of her students, she immediately pulled over and evacuated all six students and their backpacks. She called 9-1-1, and waited with the students a block away from the smoking bus for firefighters to arrive.

Shortly after evacuating, with a bang one nearby resident said sounded like a piece of heavy equipment being dropped, the small bus erupted in flames.

When firefighters from Woodstock's Station 25 arrived, they found the school bus fully involved in flames. They quickly put out the fire, and checked to make sure the driver and students were safe, and then determined that the fire had indeed begun at the engine, which was adapted for the use of natural gas - normally a safe method of propulsion.

The intersection was closed until the burned bus, stopped next to a street tree which was scorched by the flames, was hauled away.

THE BEE acknowledges with gratitude the assistance of five of its readers in covering this story: Lori Fyre, James Barta, Marvin Price, Charles Ramsay, and Todd Schwartz.