Fire hits local transit provider

Lose 5 buses, 1 van

John Fischer
The row of buses affected by the fire on Jan. 10. The center bus was removed by the Michigan State Fire Marshall.
John Fischer
A close up photo of one of the burnt buses that was parked directly next to the center bus that first ignited.
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By John Fischer
Staff writer
Posted

STANDISH — Arenac Opportunities and its Dial-a-Ride service lost five buses and a van in a blaze that occurred about 5:15 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 10, seriously damaging all but one of its buses.

According to Standish Area Fire Authority President Doug Ireland, the fire began on one bus in the middle of a line of recharging buses and the flames spread to the other buses and a van. The cause of the fire had not been determined as of Jan. 12.

“We know the middle one is where it started,” Ireland said. “The other five were just casualties so to speak.

“Because it’s (Arenac Opportunities) a commercial property, it’ll be investigated.”

He says, with the help of the Sterling Area Fire Department, the fire was extinguished within a half hour and authorities were on the scene for two hours investigating the cause.

According to Dial-a-Ride Transit Director Dave Marthaler, the fire was unknown to the only employee working Saturday because he was out on route at that time.

“One of our other employees, who was at home, heard the call come across their scanner and that’s when I found out,” Marthaler said.

He also says the fire left Dial-a-Ride with only one bus but services were saved since Bay Metro loaned them five buses to use until matters are resolved.

“It all fell right in line today,” the director said. “We’re very lucky Bay Metro has been so kind to us. I don’t know what we could have done if we would have had to work with one bus for awhile.”

Marthaler says the State Fire Marshall took the middle bus, which initially caught fire, to further investigate the matter.

He also says the buses are insured but he doesn’t know the value off-hand as they are somewhat older buses from 2003, which are considered past retirement in public transportation.

In late 2008, Dial-a-Ride was earmarked for a grant to replace five buses, which Marthaler believed wouldn’t be received until early 2010 and he is currently checking with some bus companies to discuss the grant and see about help in receiving the funds earlier than expected.

“I’m not sure what the options are yet,” Marthaler said. “It’s just a shame that this happened.

“But if you’re looking for some good out of this it would have to be that we were already (earmarked) for the grant.”

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