ORT Plans To Have Borrowed Buses Back On The Road Soon Following Fire

SPRINGDALE (KFSM) -- Ozark Regional Transit plans to have buses that have been borrowed from other transit systems in the region in service in the next two weeks after a fire destroyed 20 of ORT's 24 buses early Tuesday (Jan. 10)

Springdale Fire Marshal Duane Miller said right now the fire at the ORT bus yard doesn't appear suspicious, but they're not ruling anything out. Miller said he is sure wind was a factor.

"It could be in a week, it could be several months because the insurance companies may call in electrical engineers, specialist, diesel mechanics, people who have intimate knowledge of the vehicles,” Miller said.

He said ORT is funded by federal, state and local money and all of those entities could conduct their own investigations as well.

“The insurance, the insurance providers for the manufactures of the vehicles or the parts or the electrical cords. Now I`m not saying any of that started [the fire] but that way they have a chance to look at all the fire evidence as well,” Miller said.

ORT spokesman Jeff Hatley said Route 490 will begin running its normal and reduced schedule Thursday (Jan. 12). He said their goal is to have nine buses back on the road by the end of this week or early next week and 14 more within two weeks. He said some of these buses are being brought in from Shreveport, Wichita and even Atlanta and Arizona.

“You never know how generous people can be," Hatley said. "The buses from Atlanta, the guy said 'let me put some new tires and batteries in them and I`ll bring them to you.' I mean that is phenomenal."

Hatley said Razorback Transit and Eureka Springs Transit Authority are both loaning them several buses and those should be in service at the end of this week or the beginning of next week. Gateway Church in Greenland, Open Avenues in Rogers and Fort Smith Transit have all loaned ORT vehicles.

“We still have everyone of our para-transit fleet, so we are trying to accommodate the most necessary needs such as medical appointments, chemotherapy, dialysis and that sort of thing. So please be patient with us, we are going to get you your rides as soon as we possibly can,” Hatley said.

Hatley said they also have two buses they purchased that had not yet been delivered at the time of the fire.

He said ORT drivers have been offered several options, they're allowing paratransit drivers to give up some of their hours to give to fixed route drivers. They can take sick or vacation days. Two local charter companies have also offered to let some drivers work nights and weekends or they can take temporary layoff to draw unemployment.