Driver Hailed a Hero After Rescuing Kids From Burning School Bus

PHOTO: In this still, a school bus that caught fire is pictured outside Rancho Santa Margarita Intermediate School in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., March 27, 2015.PlayKABC
WATCH School Bus Explodes in Flames Moments After Students Evacuate

A "hero" school bus driver in California directed students to exit a yellow bus just in the nick of time before it exploded in flames, authorities said.

The bus was dropping off students at Rancho Santa Margarita Intermediate School this morning when the fire started around 8:15 a.m., according to Steve Concialdi, captain of the Orange County Fire Authority. He called the bus driver a "hero."

The school, in Rancho Santa Margarita, said the "engine of the empty school bus spewed smoke and flames," according to its website.

The bus driver, whose name was not disclosed, noticed the engine was on fire, Concialdi said.

There were 35 students on board from the 7th and 8th grade, ages 12 to 14 years.

PHOTO: In this still, a school bus that caught fire is pictured outside Rancho Santa Margarita Intermediate School in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., March 27, 2015. KABC
In this still, a school bus that caught fire is pictured outside Rancho Santa Margarita Intermediate School in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., March 27, 2015.

"[She] did an excellent job of getting all the students off safely. No one was injured. There were three kids who were emotionally distraught, who were treated by paramedics and released back to the school and parents. No one was transported to the hospital," Concialdi said.

Concialdi, who said the fire started in the engine compartment at the front of the bus, said the incident is under investigation and the bus is now "a total loss."

PHOTO: In this still, a school bus that caught fire is pictured outside Rancho Santa Margarita Intermediate School in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., March 27, 2015. KABC
In this still, a school bus that caught fire is pictured outside Rancho Santa Margarita Intermediate School in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., March 27, 2015.

The fire started a small vegetation fire next to the school, so the school followed evacuation procedures, moving 1,325 students to the sports fields. Then school continued in session today.