35 students escaped a burning bus Friday morning in front of an Orange County, California, school thanks to the calm and quick actions of the driver.
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.
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.”
The driver, who declined an on-camera interview, was identified as a 20-year employee with First Student Bus Company, which contracts with the school district. She did “an excellent job” of getting all the students off the bus safely, according to the OCFA.
The driver 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.