LITCHFIELD - A quick-thinking bus driver evacuated 43 children from a school bus this morning, getting the children off the bus as smoke came from the control panel in the driver’s compartment near a rural Litchfield home.

According to the Meeker County Sheriff’s Office, deputies were called at 7:48 a.m. to 65260 288th Street in Forest City Township and arrived to find the bus smoking heavily.

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The students were loaded into a second bus and the driver said she noticed an odor and then smoke coming from the control panel, evacuated the children, expended the on-board fire extinguisher and then called for assistance.

By the time the Litchfield Fire Department arrived, the front of bus was fully engulfed in flames. The blaze was quickly extinguished, but the bus was a total loss and had to be towed from the scene. The estimated value of the bus is $60,000.