A school bus driver helped about 35 students safely exit a burning bus Friday morning in front of an Orange County, California, school after flames spread from its engine area.
Two students were treated by firefighter-paramedics at the scene, but they did not suffer serious injuries, according to the Orange County Fire Authority.
The full size school bus' engine bay caught fire in front of Rancho Santa Margarita Intermediate School at about 8:15 a.m. Firefighters, who initially thought it might be a wildfire due to the amount of smoke, extinguished the fire about 15 minutes later.
The 20-year-old driver Lisa Sherrill, who declined an interview, did "an excellent job" of getting all the students off the bus safely, according to the OCFA.
A thick column of black smoke could be seen from around the school campus and in the surrounding neighborhood. Explosions were heard as the bus tires burst due to the heat and fire.
Daniel Grantham had just dropped his son off at the school when he looked in his rearview mirror and saw the smoke.
"I saw (smoke) coming from the direction of the school and that was my first worry," Grantham said. "I flipped around and pulled up right in front of the school where the bus was. It was burning when I got there.
"I've got to give kudos to the bus driver. The bus driver is the real hero."
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Sherrill noticed smoke coming out of the engine area as she pulled up in front of the school, said Steve Concialdi, of the Orange County Fire Authority. She calmly helped the children, ages 12 to 14, off the bus before using a fire extinguisher to fight the fire.
"These are her kids -- she takes them to school every day," said Concialdi
The front of the bus sustained significant damage. A location manager for the bus company told NBC4 the buses are inspected every 45 days, but did not have information regarding information specific to the bus that burned.
"Our students were safely evacuated to the PE school area when the school bus fire was reported," Principal Rick Jameson said in a statement. "This is our normal evacuation procedure. We take school safety when it comes to the safety of students as well as staff. Three kids had some emotional suffering, mostly just panicking and hyperventilating, but nobody was injured. Those three students were released to their parents. We will continue with regular school schedule for today."
RSM - The bus driver did an excellent job of getting all the students off the bus safely. — OCFA PIO (@OCFA_PIO) March 27, 2015