KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Cellphone video captured the moments after a school bus caught fire Tuesday morning at Armour Boulevard and Wyandotte Street.
The six students on board were only three blocks away from their school, the Foreign Language Academy, when the bus driver had seconds to react.
"He noticed smoke coming from the engine area, and he pulled the bus over to a safe location and quickly evacuated the bus," First Student spokesperson Jen Biddinger said in a phone interview.
The bus caught fire right in front of the Kansas City headquarters of the American Red Cross.
Fire breaks out on a school bus. The blaze started in the engine compartment. All students on board got out safely. The incident happened at Armour and Wyandotte in KCMO. pic.twitter.com/cbpkfkjDlC
— Jonathan goede (@jgkshb) August 28, 2018
"We try to respond anywhere, so I mean it was the quickest response of all times," said Julia Pedrosa, an American Red Cross Disaster program specialist.
Pedrosa and her team, which usually responds to house fires, were gearing up when she encountered the students who were awestruck by the fire.
"We decided it was better for the kids, safer to have them inside the building so we brought them, we gave them water, we gave them coloring books and crayons and we were just hanging out with the kids until the authorities came over," Pedrosa said.
When firefighters arrived the flames had melted much of the front of the bus.
The damage is similar to when another First Student bus caught fire earlier this year on May 14 near Emmanuel Cleaver II Boulevard and Elmwood Avenue.
In that fire, two children escaped unharmed due to the quick thinking of their bus driver.
"Well, I think it's important to note that school buses are the most regulated vehicles on the road. There's nothing more important than the safety of the students we transport, and we take that responsibility very seriously," Biddinger said.
"It's not something we see every day, but we're just glad that we were here to help and that kids are safe," Pedrosa said.
The preliminary investigation points to a mechanical failure as the cause of the fire.