PUPILS had to be evacuated after flames engulfed a bus outside of the Thomas Hardye School in Dorchester.

The part of the school closest to the blaze was evacuated after flames took hold of the Damory coach shortly after 8.30am.

The bus had transported children from Winterbourne Abbas but they had all been dropped off when the fire took hold.

The driver of the bus was believed to have been on board but quickly exited the vehicle.

Station commander Steve Cheeseman from the Dorset Fire and Rescue Service said two crews from Dorchester and one from Weymouth, a total of around 15 firefighters, were called to the scene to fight the blaze.

They used hose reel jets, breathing apparatus and foam to extinguish the flames and were forced to smash the windows of the bus to ventilate the vehicle.

The western section of Coburg Road was closed while fire crews dealt with the incident.

Mr Cheeseman and his team praised the way the school had responded and had conducted the evacuation from part of the building.

He added that the cause of the fire was still being investigated.

Assistant head teacher at the school Linda Morrison said the school sixth form centre and social sciences block were evacuated as they were closest to the fire, with around 700 to 800 pupils in the area at the time.

She said that she had seen the flames coming from the bus.

Mrs Morrison said: “There was already an ex police officer on the scene directing traffic so we stopped traffic, redirected the children and waited for the fire brigade.

“We also evacuated the buildings closest to the scene.”

She said the evacuation was made slightly difficult as the school day was yet to start so it was a case of evacuating communal areas rather than classrooms but the students were safely shepherded away from the buildings.

Fellow assistant headteacher Adam Darley said: “There were flames coming out and everything.

“There was an awful lot of smoke.”

Parent Graham Locke, from Sydling St Nicholas, said he had just dropped his son Adam, a Year 10 pupil, off at the school when he received a text saying that a bus was on fire outside the school.

He said: “I thought I could smell something when I dropped him off and when I came back I thought it was going to be just a small bus fire but it had taken quite a hold.”

Andrew Wickham, managing director of Damory Coaches said that he has launched a full investigation into the incident and would be working with the manufactures of the vehicle.

He said: “We are obviously relieved that no one was hurt but the coach is badly damaged. 

“This is fortunately a one off incident due to the vigorous maintenance regime carried out on our vehicles, which mainly have automatic fire suppression extinguishing equipment in the engine compartments.”