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53 Tourists Evacuated From Blazing Bus in California Desert

Fifty-three people were evacuated from a tour bus Sunday after it became engulfed in flames in the middle of the desert in San Bernardino County, California, fire officials said. Only four people had to be treated for minor problems.

The bus, which was based in San Luis Obispo, California, and was taking tourists from Laughlin, Nevada, to Ventura, California, caught fire about 1 p.m. (4 p.m. ET) near the intersection of Interstate 40 and Needles Highway, said Dean Dickover, a San Bernardino County fire spokesman.

IMAGE: Burned-out bus near Needles, California
The fire left the back half of the bus a charred wreck Sunday. San Bernardino County, California, Fire Department

The driver told investigators he heard what sounded like a rear tire's exploding and immediately pulled off to the side of the road. As soon as he stopped, he saw that the back of the bus was on fire. Firefighters found the rear of the tour bus in flames, with heavy smoke coursing throughout the bus. The passengers were taken to a local restaurant to await a replacement bus from Las Vegas.

Dickover said the bus was a total loss.

IMAGE: Burned-out bus near Needles, California
The bus was deemed a total loss after it caught fire Sunday near Needles, California. San Bernardino County, California, Fire Department

— M. Alex Johnson