YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The Youngstown Fire Department battled thick smoke from a fire at the WRTA garage off Mahoning Avenue on Sunday morning.
“At 9:42 this morning, we received a fire alarm activation from the WRTA bus station, or the bus garage, actually,” said YFD Battalion Chief John Lightly.
He said when crews arrived, WRTA’s maintenance staff opened the locked garage doors to thick smoke billowing out.
“A large amount of heavy, thick black smoke came pouring out. Crews immediately requested a response for an active structure fire,” Lightly said.
One of the 38 buses inside the garage had caught on fire. The built-up smoke made it difficult to see.
“Crews did a great job of getting in, locating the actual source, which was coming from one bus which was parked in the middle of the garage,” Lightly said.
WRTA maintenance director Matt Kotanchek said YFD’s quick response made all the difference in keeping the fire contained.
The department used 1,000 gallons of water to put out the fire, but the bus was a total loss.
“I just wanted to thank Youngstown Fire Department and their response time. They were right on it. Without them, we could have had a lot larger loss,” Kotanchek said.
No one was injured and no employees were working in the garage when the fire happened.
Despite the loss of the bus, Kotanchek said service on Monday shouldn’t be disrupted. But, thick smoke was still making it difficult for those who had to ride the buses on Monday.
“Our bus drivers are going above and beyond by being able to handle that smell all day long, and it’s bad,” said Dean Harris, executive director of the WRTA.
Directors say the flames and heat were so intense in the front of the bus — where they believe the fire actually started — that they set off a fire suppression system in the back of the bus and set off the sprinklers inside the bus barn.
The blaze also triggered an automatic alarm for the fire department. When crews arrived, the billowing smoke caused them to request extra manpower, thinking the garage itself was burning.
A day later, you can see how the flames melted just about everything in the front of the bus.
Although the authority’s other buses are running their normal routes, getting rid of the smokey smell in them will take some time.
“So we’re having a company come in and they’ll do a deep scrub. They’ll deodorize — they have some kind of deodorizer that can suck the fumes out. It’s going to take probably a week to get the busses all cleaned and deodorized, and then probably another week before the bus barn has been completely cleaned from all the smoke damage,” Harris said.
Although insurance investigators will help look for the cause of the fire, we’re told it could be another couple of weeks before all the buses and barn are clean.
“Warren service is canceled for tomorrow, Tuesday, May 24 and will return as soon as possible,” Harris said. “A few other routes may be affected also so it’s important riders check before heading out.”
The canceled routes are: #70 Southeast, #71 North, #72 Southwest, #73 East, #74 Elm Road Warren, #75 Northwest and #76 North Jackson Express.