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9/6/2013 8:44:00 AM
Bus fire started with battery
Oregon Department of Transportation video
An Oregon Department of Transportation camera caught images of the fire.
Oregon Department of Transportation video
An Oregon Department of Transportation camera caught images of the fire.

No one was injured when a chartered bus full of Central Catholic football players caught fire during rush hour on busy U.S. 26 Thursday afternoon.

Investigators now say a malfunctioning battery caused the problem.

The spectacular blaze in the engine compartment of the bus snarled traffic in Portland for hours. Some commuters were as much as 90 minutes late getting home, and the 45 Ram junior varsity players were forced to walk into downtown near the Jefferson Street on ramp, padded pants and all. A rain storm moved in, soaking the players. They ended up at the Multnomah Athletic Club to dry off and and catch a bus back to Central Catholic.

Players had been evacuated from the bus before the fire grew large. The boys watched from the roadside, amazed at the spectacle. Some called parents and friends and took photos with their phones before leaving the scene.  

"(There were) a couple of explosions in the back, fire coming out the sides," bus driver Jody Fritz told KATU television. "We pulled over and evacuated everybody. Tried with the fire extinguishers. Not big enough. Called for help."

The fire grew large because emergency crews were blocked by traffic and had no nearby hydrants to use.

The Central Catholic JV team was slated to play Sheldon High of Eugene at Hillsboro Stadium at 6:30 p.m. The game was cancelled and will be rescheduled. Central Catholic has no workable field on campus, so travels almost 20 miles to Hillsboro for home games.  
 "Thanks to the calm leadership of coaches Grant Hampton and Jon Taylor, the students are all safe and injury free. They are to be singled out for their handling of this potentially very dangerous situation," Central Catholic Principal John Garrow told the press.

The Blue Star bus line is used by many area Catholic high schools for sports and other events. The Blue Star dispatcher reached Friday morning said no one was available to give a comment.

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