Daniel Stamm

Lehigh Valley Students Waiting to See if School Will Reopen After Bus Depot Fire

Students in one Pennsylvania school district are waiting to see if school will resume Monday, after a raging fire destroyed at least 16 buses and led the district to cancel classes Friday.

The buses caught fire around 3 a.m. in a garage behind Orefield Middle School along Stadium Drive in South Whitehall Township.

When firefighters showed up a few minutes later, "there were flames coming out of all four sides plus the roof, Jeff Johnson, chief of the Tri-Clover Fire Co., said.

Firefighters had to retreat as tires exploded off their rims and flew through the walls of the building, taking metal siding with them, Johnson said. It took about an hour to put out the fire.

The garage was destroyed. The yellow paint and "Parkland" name on the buses were melted off, leaving smoldering metal shells.

The 9,400-student Parkland School District announced around 6 a.m. that all 11 of its schools would be closed due to the fire. School offices opened on time.

Late Friday, the district sent an email to families, saying that they were "optimistic" that classes would resume Monday, but that they would send an update to all families by 3 p.m. Sunday.

Other school districts are loaning Parkland buses, and they are working to repair ones that they can, the district said.

If school can't happen Monday, the district will make up the day on March 29, which is now a scheduled day off.

No injuries were reported.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation Friday.

In all, 25 buses were damaged, around one fifth of the district's fleet, the district said. Sixteen buses were totaled adding up to around $1.6 million in damage. The district has insurance.

Part of the reason for Friday's cancellation is because the district covers 72 square miles so there are a lot of routes to cover.

Other Lehigh Valley districts have offered buses to spare for the time being, the district said. The district hopes to have all routes covered by Monday.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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