SHAFTER, Calif. — Last month, Kern County Superintendent of Schools bus driver Roseann Rios used a fire extinguisher for the first time in her 20 years on the job while she was transporting special-needs students to school.
On Nov. 22, Rios and bus monitor Yesenia Garcia were on their morning route. When they approached a mobile home for a scheduled pickup, Garcia noticed smoke coming from the residence.
“Children were running in and out of the home, grabbing blankets and shoes. It was scary,” Garcia said.
While Garcia watched the students on the bus, Rios grabbed one of the two fire extinguishers on the bus and ran into the mobile home.
“It was just a reaction that comes from within. I didn’t think about it. I just reacted,” Rios said. “I asked Yesenia to take care of the kids on the bus, and then I ran to the home. When I got inside, I noticed the smoke was heavy and that ‘Mom’ was running in several directions. I honestly didn’t know how many kids were in the house. So, I asked her to make sure to get all of her children out of the house safely. She was trying to get me out, but I told her, ‘No, I’ll be OK.’”
The source of the smoke was in the family washroom — the clothes dryer was engulfed in flames and the room was filled with smoke. However, Rios managed to put out the entire fire within seconds using the extinguisher. She then waited for officials from the Kern County Fire Department to arrive; once they did, Rios got back on her bus and continued transporting the students to school.
Only after she had dropped off the last student did Rios have time to sit back and evaluate what happened.
“You know, it was a gas dryer, and I didn’t know if it was going to explode,” Rios said. “I just saw how upset that poor family was, and I thought, ‘You know, if the Lord’s going to take me, he’s going to take me.’”
At her last stop, she called her boss, Transportation Services Director Paul Linder.
“The first thing she said was how concerned she was that she had had to use the school bus extinguisher,” Linder said. “I told her not to worry — that is what those extinguishers are for. And she had the right extinguisher for the job. Those buses are equipped with 10-lb. retardants that are rated to put out rubbish, oil, gas and electrical fires.”
Still concerned about the family, Linder said Rios then told him, “Gosh, I hope this doesn’t ruin their Thanksgiving, I think I’ll go buy them a turkey.”
Rios also finished her afternoon shift that day. Linder said her actions did not surprise him. “Bus drivers and aides are a group of compassionate people. When they are driving, they look out for things other people don’t. It was just incredible what Roseann did, but their training comes to the surface when these things happen,” he added.