The fires all struck Champion buses of the same model that look more like an airport shuttle than a long city bus. They were the only ones in the Ride On system to have fires in that time, according to David Dise, who oversees the maintenance of Montgomery' County's vehicle fleet.
And two of three fires destroyed the vehicles.
|Ride On bus fires|
|• Wednesday: 4:13 p.m., Goldsboro Road and Massachusetts Avenue near Glen Echo|
|• Dec. 30, 2010: Marinelli Road near the White Flint Metro|
|• Sept. 8, 2010: 8400 block of Colesville Road in Silver Spring|
The county doesn't have many of that model bus, just 38 now out of about 390 buses for the Ride On fleet. At about four years old, they are relatively new for a public bus. The lifespan of a Metrobus that receives a midlife overhaul, by contrast, is about 15 years.
Montgomery County officials are investigating but say the fires, though unusual, are not connected. They began an emergency inspection of the rest of the fleet Wednesday to look for problems in other buses, Dise said.
"It's a concern and it's something we're looking into," Dise told The Washington Examiner. "We're very serious about safety."
The latest fire occurred just before 4:15 p.m. Tuesday near the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Goldsboro Road near Glen Echo. One rider was aboard with the driver when the fire began but both were able to get out without injury, Dise said. The flames were in the front of the bus, near the engine area, and took firefighters about five minutes to extinguish, said Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service Capt. Oscar Garcia.
The bus was last serviced just more than a month ago, on Nov. 25, and wasn't slated for its next preventive maintenance check until about Feb. 5, Dise said.
The fire appears to have been caused by water leaking into the bus' electrical system, Dise said. County workers are spraying down the other buses and looking for similar problems.
But the first fire, in September 2010, involved a stuck brake shoe, Dise said. After that fire, he said, the manufacturer replaced calipers on all the agency's buses of that model.
The second, last December, was caused by a pinched brake line. Some, but not all, of the buses had a similar issue and were repaired, he said.