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Third-graders evacuate safely when school bus catches fire on Hollywood Freeway [Updated]

May 19, 2010 | 12:26 pm

Busfire (2) A group of third-graders on a school field trip had a narrow escape Wednesday when their bus caught fire on a Los Angeles freeway.

The 24 children from Flory Academy, a science and technology magnet school in Moorpark, were headed to the California Science Center when their bus lurched to a stop on the southbound Hollywood Freeway near Universal City, said their teacher, Cathy Peters.

Peters said that when smoke started coming out of a vent near the driver, she moved the students to the back of the bus with the help of parent volunteers. The smoke didn’t stop, she said, so they opened the emergency exits and moved everyone off.

A number of good Samaritans stopped their cars and helped get the children across several lanes of traffic, Peters said. The group then crawled through a hole in a fence and was offered refuge at Added Value, a marketing business on Cahuenga Boulevard.

“They took us in, gave us water and the kids snacks,” Peters said by phone, as children laughed and squealed in the background.

When fire crews reached the scene shortly after 9 a.m., the bus was engulfed with flames, said Erik Scott, a spokesman for the Los Angeles city Fire Department. Fire crews extinguished the blaze in 11 minutes, he said.

Scott initially reported that two children suffered minor smoke inhalation, but firefighters at the scene said there were no injuries. One child and one adult were evaluated for smoke inhalation and found to be fine, said Capt. Steven Owens of Fire Station 76.

[Updated at 2:25 p.m.: The cause of the fire is under investigation, but Owens said officials suspect it was a  mechanical malfunction.]

Firefighters showed the children one of their engines as the school group waited for another bus to pick them up and continue to the science center.

“It’s turned into quite a field trip,” Peters said.

-- Alexandra Zavis


Photos: (top) Firefighters work around a school bus that caught fire on the Hollywood Freeway. Credit: Richard Castaneda

(bottom) Teacher Cathy Peters hugs firefighter Robert Sanchez, thanking him for his quick work and help entertaining the students until their new bus arrived. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times