Richmond school buses damaged beyond repair in two-alarm fire

The fire happened at a bus repair garage belonging to RPS
Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 7:45 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 29, 2022 at 4:07 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A destructive, two-alarm fire, on Chamberlayne Avenue in Richmond’s north side, fully consumed a vehicle maintenance facility for Richmond Public Schools.

“It was a bunch of smoke coming out of the top of the building and I called 911 to ask them is anybody was in the building,” said Cory Webber, an eyewitness who called 911.

Webber was one of many watching on Wednesday morning when flames broke out around 6:30.

“The whole back of the building was engulfed in flames and a couple of tanks actually exploded and the gas line exploded also,” said Webber.

Several school buses were damaged in Wednesday morning's fire in Richmond.
Several school buses were damaged in Wednesday morning's fire in Richmond.(WWBT)

Multiple NBC12 viewers also shared videos of the fire from many angles as it broke out.

You could even see the billowing smoke from VDOT traffic cameras.

“Crews assumed defensive operations which means they worked to extinguish the fire from the exterior,” said Amy Vu, Richmond Fire Dept. Public Information Officer.

As many as five school buses were inside the building at the time along with two other vehicles.

A bus directly outside was partially charred and is also beyond repair.

The division also says its new “Lit Limo” bus was destroyed. That’s a mobile library. The bus was about to go into service. Another remains in service.

“There were some folks inside when they smelled smoke. Everybody got out. Everybody is safe. No loss of life whatsoever,” said Jason Kamras, Richmond Public Schools superintendent.

The entire facility appears to be a total loss too.

RPS leases the building, which is used to make repairs to school buses and other vehicles.

RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras says the school system is immediately looking for alternative...
RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras says the school system is immediately looking for alternative locations to repair buses. (WWBT)

It’s been a challenging year for the division with its second building fire this year. In February, a fire devasted Fox Elementary School.

Wednesday also marked the first day of summer school for students in the city.

“We need to find another garage to be able to do our repairs as quickly as possible, so we are already working on that as we speak. And look, we’ll continue to adapt, rise to the moment as we always do,” said Kamras.

A school spokesperson also confirmed that the garage did not have a fire alarm or fire suppression system.

The origin and cause of the fire are still under investigation.

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