OC Transpo bus blaze strikingly similar to 2016 fire

A fire that broke out on double-decker bus in Kitchener, Ont., last year is eerily similar to Tuesday's fire on an OC Transpo bus, but OC Transpo officials say they have confidence in their fleet.

GO Transit double-decker bus caught fire in Kitchener, Ont., in 2016

An overheated airbrake started the fire that destroyed this GO Transit bus in Kitchener in February 2016. (Metrolinx)

Last February, one of the rear wheel wells of a double-decker bus owned by GO Transit in Kitchener, Ont., started smoking. Then it burst into flames, destroying the vehicle.

Almost a year later, on Tuesday morning, one of the same double-decker bus models — an Alexander Dennis E500 — experienced a similar fire and fate in Ottawa. The fire also appears to have started in one of the rear wheel wells.

There is no indication that this is a wide-spread or systemic issue.- Troy Charter, OC Transpo

OC Transpo's director of transit operations, Troy Charter, said he still has confidence in the fleet of 117 double-decker buses.

"We've been operating them for years. They are a reliable portion of our fleet and there is no indication that this is a widespread or systemic issue."

The GO Transit bus fire was determined to have been caused by an air-brake assembly that froze on one of the coldest days of the year. Anne Marie Aikens, a spokesperson for Metrolinx, which runs GO Transit, said the entire fleet of double-decker buses was checked after the fire. Mechanics did not discover any systemic problem with the brakes, she said.
The rear wheel well appears to be the flash point for the fire that destroyed this OC Transpo bus on Tuesday. (Roger Dubois)

Metrolinx is following what happened Tuesday in Ottawa, she added.

"It's easy to draw conclusions if something looks similar, but these vehicles have been used around the world for a very long time and we've used them since 2008 here in the Toronto area," she said. "They are very safe vehicles and we would never expand our fleet, which is what we are doing, unless we were absolutely convinced they were safe vehicles."

Charter said it will take at least a couple of days to determine what caused Tuesday's bus fire.

"As part of our investigation into this morning's incident, our maintenance engineering team has been in contact with the bus's manufacturer, and part of the investigation will involve researching if similar incidents have taken place in other municipalities." 

Charter said he is also confident in Ottawa fleet of double-decker buses.

"Our maintenance crew will be reviewing all the maintenance history of this bus, as well as other buses, but there is nothing leading us to believe there is a widespread issue."


  • A previous version of this story stated the GO Transit bus fire in Kitchener, Ont., happened in February 2013. In fact, the fire occurred in February 2016.
    Jan 18, 2017 8:13 AM ET