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Driver evacuates bus shortly before fire consumes it

He smelled smoke from engine compartment

The Columbian
Published: June 17, 2015, 12:00am

ROSEBURG, Ore. — A driver who smelled smoke from the engine compartment pulled his bus off Interstate 5 in southern Oregon and safely evacuated 18 passengers Tuesday before the vehicle burst into flames.

The vehicle was on a trip from Southern California bound for Portland, and the fire broke out on an overpass at an Interstate 5 exit in Roseburg, firefighters said.

Nobody was hurt. Another bus was scheduled to pick up the passengers to complete their trip.

The passengers were mostly women and children, the Roseburg News-Review reported.

“When I saw the bus was smoking, I just started holding my breath and waiting to get out,” said 9-year-old Gabriel Salazar of Woodburn, Ore. “I got out of the bus and started to see some flames.”

He is the eldest of four children returning with their mother from a family visit in Madera, California.

Firefighters credited the 53-year-old driver, Jose Murillo of Portland, who said he had been trained in evacuation procedures by his company, Fronteras del Norte

“The shell of that bus is very combustible. Lots of fuel inside,” Roseburg Fire Marshal Monte Bryan said. “Very fortunate the driver did a great job of getting everyone else out safely.”

The vehicle burned quickly, Battalion Chief Drew Fairbairn said. He described it as apparently custom-built, resembling an airport shuttle and having a lot of fiberglass body work.

No cause has been pinpointed, fire officials said.

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