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Bus catches fire at Cloquet Middle School

Possible tragedy was averted Tuesday afternoon when quick thinking and fast reactions helped avert injury during a school bus fire at the Cloquet Middle School.

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Possible tragedy was averted Tuesday afternoon when quick thinking and fast reactions helped avert injury during a school bus fire at the Cloquet Middle School.

According to Middle School Principal Tom Brenner, the Cloquet Transit school bus had pulled up to the curb on a side street next to the Middle School shortly before 3 p.m. to take a load of middle school basketball players to a game in Barnum.

"Classes get out at 3:08 p.m. and we could have had students all over the school yard," said Brenner. "Fortunately, we had just enough time after the fire broke out to divert them to the other side of the building. It was very fortunate that it didn't happen any earlier."

Brenner said a number of the basketball players had already boarded the bus when the driver noticed smoke. She immediately diverted all of the students out of the bus and called her dispatcher, who in turn contacted 911. A Cloquet Police officer was the first responder on the scene. By then, Brenner said flames had begun shooting out from under the hood of the bus and the officer grabbed the fire extinguisher and managed to put them out. The fire had reignited by the time the Cloquet Area Fire District responded a minute or so later, and firefighters quickly extinguished them once again.

The city of Cloquet was then contacted to sand the area around the scene of the fire in case of slippery spots from the frozen water.

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Twelve-year-old Riley Into was on board the bus when the fire first broke out. His mother, Barbie Into, an employee of the Pine Journal newspaper, was just on her way to the Middle School to take photos for the paper when she got a text from him saying, "Dude - Mom - our bus is on fire!" He later told his mom he and his friends were sitting in the bus waiting for it to get under way when the smoke was first detected and they were told to evacuate immediately.

Brenner said the entire episode was over in about 10-15 minutes.

"This sort of thing is the reason we have bus evacuation drills," said Brenner. "Fortunately, we had one just last week."

Thus far the cause of the fire has not been determined.

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