California District Receives Donated School Bus Surveillance Systems After Fire

school bus
Photo courtesy of Rubina Hartwig.

REI and A-Z Bus Sales donated parts and services to the Paradise Unified School District in northern California to help with the aftermath of the “Camp Fire.”



That fire last fall and was reportedly one of the deadliest and most destructive wildfires in state history. It devastated the town of Paradise and surrounding cities near Chico. Paradise Unified School District is still feeling the devastation of the fire.

Director of Transportation Rubina Hartwig said the district completely lost three of its school buses in the fire and is still replacing those buses. However, some video systems on the bus were not working properly on the new buses and she said there have been no available fixes, to date.

“I didn’t have the program running to be able to view the footage, so there were challenges as we returned back to school and there was a need to look at the bus footage for different reasons,” Hartwig said. “So that just made it much more difficult.”

REI, which provides video electronics for the transportation industry, donated 14 new school bus surveillance systems to PUSD. REI’s partner, school bus dealer A-Z Bus Sales, is offering to install the systems free of charge.

“The aftermath of the wildfires has placed an incredible hardship on Paradise students and their families. Donating new surveillance systems and partnering with A-Z Bus Sales is one way we can help restore safe environments for children, support this vibrant community and extend a hand to a customer in need,” announced Scott Hays, president of REI.

Hartwig said the cameras will be beneficial for both student safety and bus driver protection. The cameras will help the district locate students, to see when they boarded the bus and what stops they got off at, she noted. The video systems will work as an extra set of eyes for the bus driver by helping to monitor student behavior and documenting if a driver is falsely accused of an incident.

The exterior cameras view the outside of the bus to capture any vandalism incidents.

“All of our employee-owners are thrilled to serve the students and staff of Paradise Unified,” noted John Landherr, president and CEO of A-Z Bus. “It is the least we can do after this community has suffered so greatly. We appreciate partners like REI who are willing to lend a helping hand.”

Hartwig said she was not expecting the extent of assistance when she initially spoke with an REI representative about the circumstances the district was experiencing and where it needed help. Instead, she mentioned “simple things.”

“…I didn’t even have a cable to connect the hardware to the software when I finally got my hands on it,” Hartwig said. “Little things like that, you don’t think about. So that was amazing when he came back and said this is what we can do for you.”

Hartwig added she is overwhelmed by the support that the community has offered.

“We are really appreciative of what people have done to help us to keep moving, and the support that we have experienced through the community,” Hartwig said. “The different agencies that we work with, it’s just been phenomenal. The support has been outstanding, and we couldn’t have done it without it.”