SEFFNER — A mechanical malfunction caused a fire that destroyed three buses and damaged a fourth at Seffner Christian Academy early Monday morning, said Anthony Rodriguez, Hillsborough Fire Rescue battalion chief.
Firefighters arrived on scene at 6 a.m., just down the street from the school at 11605 U.S. 92. The academy is part of the First Free Will Baptist Church of Tampa.
The buses and a recreational vehicle were under a pole barn.
"The school bus was fully involved when the first (Hillsborough County sheriff's) deputy got here," said Charlie Elliott, who is in charge of the buses for the school. "So they think it must have started there and spread to the others."
The fire damaged the four buses — a shuttle, two-large tour buses and the school bus — leaving behind three charred shells.
A camper next to the covered port where the buses were parked was also damaged, but no one was injured during the fire.
The buses are used to transport the school's 700 students, as well as for church functions.
A tour bus escaped the fire with scorched paint, a few melted windows and no interior damage, Elliott said. He hopes the church's youth group, which he directs, will still be able to take it to a retreat in North Carolina next week.
"It's okay to drive, but we'll have to see," he said. "The others are a total loss. I don't know what it would take to replace them. It's so heartbreaking."