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BATTLEBORO, NC (AP) — An Edgecombe County bus driver is being hailed for getting 39 elementary school students safely off a bus that caught fire.

Schools spokeswoman Diane LeFiles says the fire happened Wednesday morning. The bus was on its way to Coker-Wimberly Elementary School in Battleboro.

Students noticed smoke coming from the back of the vehicle. Driver Penny Cooper pulled over and evacuated everyone through the front. She then went back on the bus to make sure all the students were off.

The flames were so hot that the windows and tires of the bus melted. The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

LeFiles says Cooper deserves major credit for her actions. None of the students were hurt, and a replacement bus made sure they got to school.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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