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Iola bus fire drill

Firefighters, school district collaborate on safety

By Jane Myhra

A bus safety drill was conducted Monday, Oct. 17, at the Iola Winter Sports Club.

Held during School Bus Safety Week, the drill was a collaboration between the Iola & Rural Fire Department and the Iola-Scandinavia School District.

The object was to simulate a bus fire and a rescue.

“Training for these types of incidents is crucial,” said Gary Trzebiatowski, transportation director for the I-S School District. “Things happen and being prepared is very important.”

As the drill began, a school bus pulled into the IWSC parking lot and immediately the passengers exited out of the back emergency door. The bus driver, who is always last to exit, counted the students to find one missing.

When the fire engine responded to the scene, three firefighters entered the bus for a search and rescue. They found one of the students inside and carried him out.

“They seemed like they knew what they were doing,” said Garret Pauloski, who was chosen to be the victim for the drill. “I was removed safely.”

“Every year we train the students on bus evacuations,” Trzebiatowski said. “This year we decided to step it up and give some of the students a simulation so the training isn’t so repetitive.”

After the “rescue,” Trzebiatowski gave the IRFD firefighters a tour of the bus, reviewing the emergency exits and explaining where an electrical fire would most likely start.

He noted buses burn very quickly.

“These things are made of wood. The plastics burn, the seats burn and the tires are going to blow,” he said.

He told the firefighters a bus fire is very hot.

“If you guys get called out to a bus fire, you are not going to save the bus – don’t even try,” he said.

The main thing is to get everybody out safely. The bus driver or the chaperone always has an updated list of passengers and will inform rescue personnel if someone is missing.

“I hope a bus fire doesn’t happen here,” Trzebiatowski said. “But if it does, it doesn’t take long to evacuate a bus. Odds are if they are still inside, they won’t survive.”

The firefighters said they learned a lot from the drill.

“We have never done anything like this,” said Iola Fire Chief Jim Aanstad. “This is a good experience for us. It gives the firefighters a chance to look at a bus.”

According to Trzebiatowski, passengers are not allowed to sit in the back seats of a bus.

“If a bus is rear-ended, the back end collapses easily,” he said.

Trzebiatowski said a bus crash would also be a good scenario for a drill. He noted school buses have a roof hatch, which is only used for evacuation if the bus is sideways.

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