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Fires plague buses at CATS as problems mount this week

6 months 2 weeks 3 hours ago Friday, July 22 2022 Jul 22, 2022 July 22, 2022 4:41 PM July 22, 2022 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - Another fire reported on a CATS bus Thursday raises questions about maintenance at the public bus company.

Thursday morning, witnesses said a driver had to use a fire extinguisher to put out the flames on a bus near the Cortana Walmart. At the time, WBRZ asked whether an inventory was being done on the bus fire extinguishers after learning that one of them was expired.

By Thursday evening, sources provided pictures to WBRZ showing a number of fire extinguishers being changed on buses. Thursday afternoon, a CATS spokeswoman denied the fire and said all extinguishers were up-to-date.

"A fire extinguisher was utilized out of an abundance of caution," Deanna Wallace said. "We took the bus out of circulation and took it to our mechanics to look at, which is normal procedure."

Hours after that interview, another CATS bus had a fire. Sources provided a picture of it to the WBRZ Investigative Unit. It had to be towed.

This all occurred after a CATS bus was a total loss after erupting into flames at the Mall of Louisiana. Dispatch recordings obtained by the WBRZ Investigative Unit show the driver radioed about problems but was told to keep going.

"This bus, 202, I have real bad fumes coming out back of the bus," the driver told dispatch. "It's coming out bad. I'm asking, 'Should I go up here with this bus like this?'"

The dispatcher responded, "10-4, you might be polluting the air, but it won't harm anybody."

Wednesday, WBRZ reported that bills were paid so late that CATS employees' benefits cards were frozen. It's the second time this year that WBRZ exposed that bills were paid so late it affected employees of the bus system. In April, health insurance lapsed for employees after bills were not paid on time.

Calls to CATS were not returned Friday.

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