Blast from propane-powered Bluebird school bus shakes East Ridge

photo A propane powered bus sits burnt out after it exploded at 5618 Ringgold Road on Sunday.


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photo Fire erupts from a Bluebird, 71-passenger, propane-powered school bus at the U-Haul store at 5618 Ringgold Road in East Ridge on Sunday. The front end of the brand-new bus was destroyed.

A brand-new, propane-powered Bluebird school bus went up in a blast of flame Sunday just feet from a propane fueling tank at the U-Haul building on Ringgold Road in East Ridge.

No one was injured. The front end of the 71-passenger bus was destroyed by the fire, the origin of which was unknown Sunday evening. East Ridge public information officers were unavailable for comment Sunday.

Some initial speculation by onlookers was that the bus driver was fueling up when something mechanical went wrong, causing an explosion and fire.

John Hendrickson works across the street at Elations, and he heard the explosion as he was coming in to work.

"It was comparable to a gunshot," he said. "It sounded like a cannon."

Hendrickson said he heard two distinct explosions.

"Also, it blew up twice," he said. The blasts occurred around five minutes apart, he estimated.

Paul Martin lives close to the scene, and he stopped by Sunday evening to look at the damaged bus.

He did not hear the initial explosions, but he did hear emergency crews responding.

"I heard a bunch of fire engines and police cars," he said.

No information about the bus' owner, U-Haul's intention for it or origins of the incident were available Sunday evening.

Bluebird's website states the exclusive propane-powered buses are equipped with a 6.8L Ford engine and Roush CleanTech liquid autogas fuel system.

Bluebird states the buses get better fuel economy and create fewer emissions and 100,000-mile propane system coverage.

Roush CleanTech's website states the Bluebird buses have "increased fuel economy, greater horsepower and torque and the largest tank available of any propane autogas powered school bus."

Contact staff writer Alex Green at 423-757-6731 or