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Bus catches fire on Hwy. 3

This bus was completely destroyed by fire Monday morning.

Things could have been much worse, but it still wasn't a great way to start off a Monday morning.

Farmington firefighters were called to a vehicle fire on Highway 3 around 7:15 a.m. Monday. Fire chief Tim Pietsch said the fire was so hot, he could see an orange glow from the south as he left his driveway to respond.

The vehicle was a bus owned by the nonprofit company ProAct, Inc., which provides transportation and services to individuals with disabilities. Chief executive officer Steve Ditschler said the bus driver, Farmington resident Linda Dominguez, was just beginning her route, which normally includes picking up about 20 individuals and transporting them to job sites in Eagan.

At the time of the fire, only the driver and one individual were on the bus.

In her statement to Pietsch, the driver said the bus started to run poorly while she was on her route. She pulled over and called a mechanic. She checked some gauges, then noticed fire coming from the back. Without raising the hood, she attempted to put out the fire with an extinguisher.

Fortunately, she had also removed the passenger from the vehicle, which burst into flames while the two stood by the side of the road.

"It was pretty spectacular," Pietsch said. "The tires were blowing up. With the fiberglass body on those things, they go up right now."

About a dozen firefighters with two trucks and a tender unit responded to the fire.

The fire gutted the vehicle, leaving behind of a charred, white and gray shell. Ditschler said he knew one of the buses had been in a fire, but the damage was beyond what he had expected.

"I was astounded at the damage," he said. "I am very thankful that we didn't have that happen later when we had a vehicle full of people."

ProAct, Inc. has several locations in Minnesota and Wisconsin, with headquarters in Eagan. The vehicles are maintained and inspected regularly, Ditschler said. At this point, the cause of this fire is undetermined.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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