Heroic School Bus Driver Transported 22 Kids to Safety During California Wildfires

The kids inhaled smoke and were exposed to high temps as they escaped. And even the bus was sideswiped by another fleeing car.

A school bus driver who transported a group of elementary school students to safety through a danger-packed evacuation route is being praised for his heroic actions. The driver managed to rescue 22 children and several adults from the wildfires near Paradise, California.

Kevin McKay is a bus driver for Ponderosa Elementary School, which is located in the Northern California City of Paradise, where recent wildfires have totally devastated the area. According to CNN, when the Camp Fire blaze broke out, McKay began to worry for the safety of the stranded kids who were still waiting on guardians to arrive at their school to pick them up. Eventually, he and two other teachers left with the kids when the sky was dark and the flames could be seen in the distance. It would take hours to navigate the bus through gridlock traffic to reunite the children with their families.

“The fact that it was coming down in 1,000 places, it was unheard of,” McKay told CNN about the blaze. McKay’s son, mother, and girlfriend had already evacuated the area that morning, “That freed me up to focus completely on this terrifying situation,” McKay said.

During the journey, the smoke became so bad that it was irritating the small children’s lungs, and McKay gave the teachers his shirt to tear into pieces, soak in water, and give the children to breathe into. The adults calmed the children during the terrifying and long journey the best they could, while also gathering phone numbers and making sure they knew how to operate the safety exits on the bus. 

To make things even more tense for the children, as well as the adults trying to keep them safe, a car sideswiped the bus at one point during the evacuation. They also witnessed several other collisions along the journey and picked up a preschool teacher from a different elementary school whose car had broken down. After a hellish ordeal, everyone in this bus made it to safer grounds without any reported injuries. 

The Camp Fire blaze is the deadliest and most destructive fire ever in California, with nearly 700 people still unaccounted for and 79 people confirmed dead.

Rain now promises to end the fire threat, but concerns about flash flooding and mudslides could pose a new risk to the residents in surrounding areas.