11-year-old Mahwah student alerts driver to school bus fire

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MAHWAH -

A quick-thinking 11-year-old Mahwah student helped to prevent a disaster by alerting his school bus driver that the vehicle was on fire.

Mahwah fire officials say that fifth-grader Rocco Arcese smelled smoke when he boarded the bus around 9 a.m. Tuesday.

“I've smelled burning rubber before.  Because I have quads and a dirt bike so I just knew,” he says.

Arcese says that the driver did not notice anything at first, so he says he went to his usual seat in the back of the bus.

"We got over to where the baseball field is and then the engine just turned off and the front of the bus was on fire, you could see the smoke,” Arcese says. “I was like, ‘We should get off,’ and [the driver] was like ‘Yeah I'm packing up.’”

Arcese says that he did not panic and stayed calm as he evacuated the bus.

"I don't know why I stayed that calm. I shouldn't have. I didn't freak out. I don't know why,” he says.

Councilman Robert Hermansen was driving behind the bus, and he saw smoke as well.  He says once Arcese and the bus driver got out, the bus quickly became engulfed in flames.

"You could hear the windows popping from the fire,” Hermansen says.

The councilman says that Arcese’s quick-thinking helped to avert a larger problem. He says that if the bus had stopped to pick up more students there could have been injuries.

Arcese’s mother say that he has always been a cool and collected kid. She says that she is very proud of him.

“Super proud.  Rocco is an awesome boy,” she says.

Hermansen says he wants to bring the boy in front of the entire council so they can honor his bravery.

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