Chillicothe Fire Department firefighter Jonathon Nolan extinguishes hot spots at the Chillicothe R-II School District bus barn Monday morning. A massive blaze destroyed eight school buses Sunday night after a suspected electrical issue sparked the fire.

CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — A suspected electrical malfunction at the Chillicothe R-II School District bus barn destroyed eight school buses Sunday night.

Shortly before 10 p.m., fire crews were called to the bus barn after reports of fire came from the former Missouri Department of Transportation building, said Chillicothe Fire Chief Darrell Wright. Large flames were seen coming from the building and sounds of explosions echoed into the night.

He said tire explosions were heard as the buses, filled with diesel fuel, burned hot and fast.

“We got the call ... about an explosion at the bus barn, and upon arrival, there were about four or five buses fully involved in fire,” Mr. Wright said. “Within a couple of minutes, the others became involved, but it took us about 30 minutes to get (the fire) under control, then about another hour to get all the hot spots and other areas knocked out.”

Burnt shells of the school buses were still in the parking lot on Monday morning.

The transportation building, located in the southern portion of Chillicothe, housed 22 of the district’s 24 buses Sunday night. Bus barn supervisor Terry Mammen said the damage may total more than $700,000.

“At first, I was like ‘Oh no, now what?’” he said. “Then I started to think about how many spares we had and I thought we could get the routes covered in the morning.”

Mr. Mammen said neighboring school districts and community churches offered their vehicles and buses to ensure children would not miss school. Superintendent Dr. Roger Barnes said transportation to and from school was provided, but the district was forced to cancel a varsity soccer game that was scheduled in St. Joseph on Monday night.

Dr. Barnes and Mr. Mammen continue to organize bus routes for the last two weeks of school.

Through security cameras and surveillance footage from nearby businesses, authorities believe no criminal activity or vandalism sparked the blaze.

“The preliminary (cause) is accidental, probably an electrical (issue) inside the building,” Mr. Wright said. “(The Missouri State Fire Marshal’s office) has ruled out any sort of vandalism or foul play and said that it looks to be accidental in nature.”

The official cause of the fire remains under investigation as of Monday afternoon.

Kristin Hoppa can be reached at kristin.hoppa@newspressnow.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SJNPHoppa.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.