By Juli McDonald

BELLINGHAM (CBS) – Parents are praising a Rhode Island bus driver for safely evacuating students before their school bus caught fire Wednesday afternoon. Five students from Mount Saint Charles Academy were on their way home when the Valley Transport bus suddenly “felt warm.”

“We heard this weird buzzing noise and it starts getting a little bit hotter,” said freshman Jonathan Thibodeau.

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A school bus burst into flames in Bellingham (WBZ-TV)

The driver immediately pulled over and instructed the kids to get out. Within minutes the smoke turned to huge flames.

“At first it was oil dripping from the engine that was catching on fire immediately on the ground. Then the actual engine started to burst into flames,” Thibodeau said.

The bus wasn’t far from its usual Bellingham stop. Thibodeau’s mother Jackie was waiting to pick him up.

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A school bus was badly damaged by fire in Bellingham (WBZ-TV)

“Within a moment it just went up into big flames. Pretty scary, rattling to see,” she said.

No one was hurt. Some of the students were taken to Bellingham Police to be picked up by their parents.

“The fact he [the Valley Transport driver] pulled over where he did; it’s amazing he made that decision. I’m so grateful to him,” Jackie said.

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According to the Bellingham fire chief there’s too much damage to determine what exactly caused the engine fire.

Juli McDonald