On November 8, the devastating Camp Fire broke out and quickly started to spread across Butte County, California.
According to CNN, the county was evacuated, but some children were stuck at Ponderosa Elementary School in Paradise because their parents couldn’t get to them.
Kevin McKay, a 41-year-old bus driver at the school, saw the fire start to approach from multiple directions.
Teachers Abbie Davis, 29, and Mary Ludwig, 50, were also at the school and grew worried as the skies darkened. Ludwig told CNN:
“It was very scary. It felt like Armageddon.”
The three staff members loaded onto a bus with 22 children and got on the road to leave Paradise.
But due to gridlock traffic, the terrifying ride lasted for several hours. One 10-year-old on the bus, Charlotte Merz, said:
“It was so crazy, and there were fires left and right, everywhere you looked.”
During the ride, smoke seeped into the bus. Some children said that they felt “sleepy” and a few actually fell asleep.
When McKay realized what was happening, he took off his shirt and ripped it into small pieces.
The driver and teachers then soaked the cloth using their one water bottle so that the kids had something to breathe through. McKay said:
“That seemed to help.”
At one point during the bus ride, they all prayed together. Davis said she thought they weren’t going to make it out of the wildfire.
She told CNN:
“Our last stretch, that was the moment I thought that we might not make it out.”
Thankfully, the bus made it to safety after hours on the road. The children have been reunited with their families. Ludwig said:
“We had the bus driver from heaven.”
McKay had only worked for the school as a bus driver for a few months, but he attributed the successful resue to paying attention in his training classes.
As of Monday, 77 people are confirmed dead from the Camp Fire and 993 are missing.