TAMARAC, FLA. (WSVN) - A Broward County school bus driver is being hailed a hero for leading 16 children to safety moments after the vehicle they were on caught fire in Tamarac.

Tamarac Police and Fire Rescue units responded to the scene of the blaze in the area of Northwest 61st Street and 84th Terrace, next to the entrance to Fairways of Tamarac community, just after 4:15 p.m., Thursday.

Officials said the driver immediately brought the bus to a stop and ensured all 16 elementary school students inside exited safely before crews arrived.

Area resident Maria Velez said she came racing to the scene as soon as she heard the commotion.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said.

A photo taken by officials shows flames coming out of the bus’ engine compartment and on the pavement as fuel spread out. Cellphone video sent in by a 7News viewer also captured the front of the vehicle consumed by the intense flames. Another 7News viewer sent in drone video showing an overhead view of the bus filled with dark smoke as firefighters fought the blaze.

Witnesses watched the intense scene in disbelief.

“It was high, and from over there, I could see it coming from the front of the bus,” said area resident Rupa Vishnu.

“This is unbelievable. When I saw this, oh, my heart was just – I was just hoping there were no kids involved. Nobody, in fact,” said Velez. “It made me, I don’t know. It’s bad.”

A spokesperson for the school district said the bus was taking students home from Nova Blanche Elementary School in Davie when the front caught fire, just after 4 p.m.

Crews were able to put out the flames and spread foam around the bus. However, the vehicle has been declared a total loss.

Just after 6 p.m., 7News cameras captured the vehicle’s charred front cab and engine area.

Police have blocked off the intersection of Northwest 84th Avenue and 61st Street while they investigate.

Officials are attempting to determine whether the fire started while the vehicle was in motion or after the driver parked on the side of the road.

No injuries were reported.

Just after 5 p.m., students were transferred to another school bus to take them to their destinations.

While officials work to determine the cause of the fire, neighbors have been left asking one question.

“How could something like this happen?” said Velez.

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