Blaze claims two Bertie buses

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 12, 2007

WINDSOR – School superintendents are used to putting out fires, but usually not literal ones.

However, Bertie County Schools’ superintendent Dr. Sidney &uot;Chip&uot; Zullinger attempted to do just that here Saturday.

An activity bus apparently caught fire after returning to the school bus garage on County Farm Road following the Windsor Christmas parade Saturday.

&uot;The bus was coming from the parade downtown and apparently the right rear brake was sticking on the bus,&uot; Zullinger told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald.

He continued, &uot;It (the brake) was seizing and caused the drum to heat up, so by the time the bus got back over to the bus garage it was smoking badly.&uot;

The Bertie High School band director and the driver were the only two left on the bus, but it wasn’t until they got off that they saw the smoke.

At that point, the band director called 911 and the fire department. He also called Zullinger, who was in his office at the school administrative building across the street.

&uot;He (the band director) called me, so I grabbed a fire extinguisher off the wall and ran over there to see if I could put it out,&uot; Zullinger explained.

He went on, &uot;I got inside the tire wall, sprayed that and managed to put out the exterior fire, but by that time it had spread to the inside and we were afraid the fuel tank would explode, so at that point I waited for the fire department to arrive.&uot;

Zullinger said the Windsor Fire Department arrived quickly, but it was still too late to save the bus.

He modestly downplayed his part in controlling the fire.

&uot;The Windsor Fire Department firefighters, now they are your real heroes,&uot; he said.

Zullinger went on, &uot;The firefighters were just awesome; two or three of them went in there and put the fire out in a matter of minutes.&uot;

The fire also spread to another activity bus that was sitting beside the first one and it was destroyed as well.

According to Zullinger, the bus that caught fire was one of the newest ones the school system owned.

&uot;It was probably our best activity bus, and an older-model one caught on fire and was destroyed as well,&uot; he said.

The most recently purchased bus was bought new in 1998 and cost in the $60,000-$70,000 range.

An investigation into the exact cause of the fire is ongoing.