Multiple buses erupt in flames in First Student lot in Providence; Arson suspected

(WJAR)

Several buses went up in flames in the First Student bus yard Thursday night, with authorities saying they are investing it as arson.

First Student Spokesman Frank McMahon told NBC 10 at least six to seven buses were involved. He said the buses have been "really destroyed," adding that other buses potentially suffered smoke and water damage.

“Six or seven really destroyed -- substantially destroyed buses,” he said. “The Providence police asked us to come back to the fence line here. It was an active crime scene at this particular point in time. We’ll sit back and wait until the police department and fire department is done with their work.”

McMahon said the buses are worth approximately $60,000 to $80,000 each -- a loss of nearly a half of a million dollars.

The Providence Fire Department noted in a tweet that crews were “out with multiple buses on fire” off Union Avenue on Ricom Way. One firefighter suffered minor injuries, but was treated at the scene.

Police said around 7:30 p.m., a nearby security guard called 911, reporting one bus on fire. Then, the flames spread.

Authorities said someone would have had to climb the fence to get into the area.

Mayor Jorge Elorza, along with Providence Safety Commissioner Steven Pare, also responded to the scene.

“Of course, it is suspicious,” Elorza said. “Certainly, the elephant in the room, the timing of it, also is odd.”

It is unknown if the fire is connected to a strike between First Student and the bus drivers union. Teamsters Local 251 went on strike Sept. 27 after contract talks broke down over retirement benefits.

The union has demanded that First Student enter its members into a pension plan.

But First Student said the program is failing and that it would be irresponsible to put their workers into it. The company offered to increase 401(k) contributions.

The strike has left about 9,000 public school students without school bus rides. The city is not providing alternative transportation.

First Student and the Teamsters have until Friday to reach an agreement before the city pulls resources.

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