RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA (CBSLA.com) — Firefighters rushed Friday to put out a school bus that caught fire outside a middle school in Rancho Santa Margarita.

Shortly after 8:15 a.m., a full-size yellow school bus caught fire outside Rancho Santa Margarita Intermediate School at 21931 Alma Aldea, according to an Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) spokesperson.

Crews extinguished the flames around 8:28 a.m., officials said.

Fire Authority spokesman Steve Concialdi told the Associated Press the fire burned from the engine into the first three rows, and smoke damaged the rest of the bus.

Authorities say the bus suffered major damage and is a total loss. (Photo credit: Michelle Gile/Twitter)

Authorities say the bus suffered major damage and is a total loss. (Photo credit: Michelle Gile/Twitter)

Despite the fire being contained in a relatively short amount of time, Principal Rick Jamison told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO it was still a pretty dramatic scene.

“It did take a lot of smoke out, did kind of do some damage to the pavement where the heat from the engine caused the tires to blow,” Jamison said.

All students were safe and no injuries were reported in part, authorities said, because the female “bus driver did an excellent job of getting all the students off the bus safely.”

The driver ushered students out of the aisles, telling them to exit “quickly, quickly,” before retrieving a fire extinguisher and attempting to put out the flames. The fire proved too intense and crews knocked it down when they arrived.

“The bus driver is a hero,” the OFCA tweeted of the beloved driver, who students say warmly greets them every morning.

“Of course she’s shaken up, this is a big event. What stood out is she did everything right. She wouldn’t consider herself a hero but she actually has some hero qualities, and I’m very proud of her,” said location manager Melvin Florence, of First Student Inc. bus company contracted by the school district.

It wasn’t immediately known how many students were aboard the bus at the time of the fire.

Three students who were “emotionally upset by the scene” were treated, but they were not injured, according to reports.

Classes remained in session at the school following the fire.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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