SAN DIEGO --
A bus driver safely evacuated 34 students from his bus Thursday morning just before flames spread from the engine compartment and gutted the vehicle, police said.
Juan Caleros, a driver for the San Diego Unified School District, said he was driving north on Interstate 5 through downtown when he momentarily lost power. He said he glanced in his rearview mirror and saw smoke coming from the engine compartment at the rear of the bus.
Caleros exited the freeway at 6th Avenue and immediately pulled over. He evacuated all of the students through the front door. After accounting for everyone, Caleros said he went to the rear of the bus and emptied a fire extinguisher into the engine compartment, but that didn't keep the fire from spreading, so he called the fire department.
When firefighters arrived, the inside of the bus was in flames, and thick, black smoke was billowing from the vehicle. Police said the smoke was visible as far away as the Old Town Transit Center. Fire crews quickly extinguished the flames, but the inside of the bus had burned from front to back.
The bus was carrying students from the South Bay to La Jolla High School, Caleros said.
Another school bus picked up the students and took them to school.
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