A heroic school bus driver passed through a fiery ‘Armageddon’ landscape when he evacuated children and teachers as the Californian wildfires engulfed Paradise, in Butte County.
Smoke smoke billowed through the windows as Kevin McKay, 41, tore his shirt into rags and doused them with water for the children to breathe through, on November 8.
McKay as well as the teachers from Ponderosa Elementary School on board thought seriously about fleeing the vehicle, CNN reported, but he bravely drove them on to safety.
Kevin McKay, 41, kept his nerve as his school bus filled with smoke and he drove 22 terrified children and their teachers to safety
Kevin McKay (left) sits with one of the children he saved in the harrowing bus journey
Teacher Mary Ludwig and bus driver Kevin McKay embrace; she said he was ‘the bus driver from heaven’ after he got them out of Ponderosa Elementary School
Flames are driven across a road in California – nearly 12,000 homes and buildings, including most of the town of Paradise, were incinerated hours after the blaze erupted
Mary Ludwig, 50, told the broadcaster, ‘the sky was really menacing.’
‘It was very scary. It felt like Armageddon.’
The bus driver told CNN, ‘It just kind of looked like we’d be headed into Mordor,’ like the fiery world of the evil Sauron from The Lord of the Rings.
Family members had already collected many of the children from the school as the fire spread throughout northern California, but another 22 children still remained to be saved.
McKay’s family were already out of the area as he remained dedicated to his bus driving job, which he had only taken three months ago.
Smoke was filling the lungs of the children as McKay persevered on the gridlocked roads, walled with fire.
One child reported feeling unwell, CNN said, and that is when McKay started making rags with the help of teachers to allow them to breathe more safely.
As they made their way, McKay instructed his passengers to grab first aid kits, to look at the emergency exits and prepare for the worst.
Ludwig said he was ‘the bus driver from heaven.’
Kevin McKay sits with the children he saved and teacher Mary Ludwig who praised him as a hero
Firefighters work to stop the flames from spreading through an apartment complex, close to the school in Paradise, California
The Camp Fire continues to rage and is the deadliest in the state’s history, with 76 dead and 1,200 missing.
Nearly 12,000 homes and buildings, including most of the town of Paradise, were incinerated hours after the blaze erupted, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) has said.
Thousands of additional structures are still threatened by the Camp Hill fire, and as many as 50,000 people were under evacuation orders at the height of the blaze.
But the blaze isn’t over and the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for the region over the weekend as high winds fanned the flames.
Fire crews in the area have been bolstered to help prevent the fire from gaining traction.