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Fire Levels Pipestone Bus Company

November 12, 2012, 10:06 PM by Kelly Bartnick

Fire Levels Pipestone Bus Company

An afternoon fire destroyed a bus barn at Priester Bus Inc. in Pipestone, Minnesota, Monday. Pipestone fire crews got the call just before 1:30 p.m. By then the barn was in flames. Wind fanned the flames, while oil and other flammable materials made them stronger

“It doesn't do you any good to cry.  It doesn't do you any good to swear or anything like that,” owner Jerry Priester said.

Priester discovered the fire just after 1 p.m. He watched the building burn all day. By evening, Priester only had a pile of rubble where his business once stood.

“We had it knocked down in less than an hour. All the flames we had a hard time getting to the east end because of the narrow alley,” Pipestone Volunteer Fire Department Chief Cory Popma said.

Seven school buses were inside the building. Seven full tanks of fuel fed seven separate explosions as the flames charred the 150-foot long structure. Everything inside, including the buses, is considered a complete loss.

“The roof was lying on the buses,” Popma said, “So we were able to not have to worry about the roof falling, which was really fortunate.”

“I still have four of 11 [buses] I can still run. I just need a little help,” Priester said.

And Priester says help has already come from his competitors, which found buses in time to make Monday afternoon's routes. His long-term plan is to get back up and running. So the ashes are not the end, but just a bump in the road.

“The buses will keep running and the drivers will be the same. They'll just be different buses for a little while. They're still yellow,” Priester said.

No one was hurt. Neighboring fire crews from Jasper and Holland were called in to help. Fire investigators will be in Pipestone Tuesday to begin an investigation, but early signs point to an electrical issue with either a school bus engine block heater or an outlet that one of the buses was plugged into.

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