Bus Fires: More Common Than You think

Bus Fires: More Common Than You think

Bus transportation is regarded as one of the safest modes of public transportation and is used by millions of passengers who ride it every day for a variety of purposes. However, bus fires can start due to any number of reasons but the causes generally fall into three distinct categories: electrical, friction at the wheel level, and engine component failures. Many incidents can be prevented with quality maintenance and inspection programs.

However, there are occasions where a fire occurs resulting from a collision. This event puts lives at risk and can have an enormous impact on operational costs as well as customer confidence. 

MIJA’s 2N1 Fire Suppression System Switches

MIJA’s pressure gauges and 2N1 Pressure Switch can be commonly found on fire suppression systems for school buses, motor coaches, transit buses, and many applications where lives or valuable materials need to be protected.

How Bus Fires Start

Much like any vehicle, engine parts can reach temperatures high enough to cause even the slightest leak of fuel or oil to ignite. Fires can also occur due to electrical wiring, overheating of engine components, or an issue with the brake system. Most bus fires occur in the vehicle’s engine compartment located at the rear of the bus or coach or in the wheel well, making it difficult for the driver to discover the fire.

Once a fire has been detected, it has usually reached a sufficient size and can quickly engulf the passenger compartment. Tests have shown that it can take less than five minutes before toxic fumes and smoke enter the passenger compartment, putting passengers’ lives at risk. Even though fires that cause injuries are fortunately quite uncommon, the potential risk of a disastrous event is still too high.

US Law Regarding Bus Fire Safety

Bus fires are an increasing worldwide problem. The FMCSA regulates the safety of commercial motor vehicles used on highways for transporting passengers or property. FMCSA regulation 49 CFR Part 393.95 requires safety equipment such as:


  • A fire extinguisher
  • A fire extinguisher having an Underwriters’ Laboratories rating of 5 B:C or more; or two fire extinguishers, each of which has an Underwriters’ Laboratories rating of 4 B:C or more
  • Spare fuses
  • Warning devices for stopped vehicles, such as emergency reflective triangle
  • Wheel chocks, to prevent accidental movement of vehicle while parked
  • First aid kits, to match the maximum capacity of persons per vehicle


Due to the nature and location of fires on transit buses, coaches and school buses, one small fire extinguisher is not likely to do the job of saving the vehicle. The number of combustible fuels and oils that are needed to operate a bus make preventative maintenance the best option in curbing these fires. A fire extinguisher on board will, however, provide passengers more time to exit the vehicle and maintain a safe distance until emergency services arrive.   

Install fire suppression and fire monitoring systems

A bus fire can lead to a handful of serious complications, including passenger safety, costs to cities or agencies, and traffic disruptions, making it critical to suppress the fire as fast as possible.

Even if a fire suppression system will not prevent a fire from occurring, it can dramatically reduce the impact of a fire by immediately extinguishing it and delaying the fire development to such an extent that the fire department, or sometimes even the bus driver can put out any remaining fire without complete loss.


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