A QUICK-THINKING bus driver evacuated his coach before a fire gutted the bus and sparked a grassfire on the Princes Highway.
The coach was travelling from Warrnambool to Melbourne when the driver heard a loud bang and pulled over near Conns Lane, between Colac and Winchelsea.
Sergeant Michael Egan of Colac police said the driver found a fire in the engine at the rear of the bus.
“He’s then got the passengers off the bus, there were only 16 passengers on the bus, all tourists,” Sgt Egan said.
“The fire’s quickly spread onto the bus and the grass below, causing a small grassfire and engulfing the bus,” he said.
“They didn’t have time to get their passports or personal belongings off the bus.”
Sgt Egan said a bus from the same company was in the area and picked up the passengers and took them to Melbourne.
He said the driver had started work with the coach company on that day.
Motorist Toby Prime arrived on the scene soon after the fire started.
“The fire spread pretty quickly from the bus which was on the side of the road,” Mr Prime said.
“It quickly spread into the paddock and then into the trees,” he said.
Eighteen Country Fire Authority trucks and appliances fought the 16-hectare fire.
Winchelsea Fire Brigade captain Rod Taylor said the fire burned through paddocks, a shed and fencing.
“It went through some plantations and a small shed and through to the railway line area,” Mr Taylor said.
“And then it spotted over the railway line in a northerly direction and spotted about 50 metres ahead,” he said.
“We were just so lucky there was hardly any wind.”
Mr Taylor said crews monitored the fire overnight Tuesday and Wednesday for hotspots.
Police closed the Princes Highway on Tuesday afternoon as CFA crews fought the grassfire.
Senior Constable Rebecca Hills of Winchelsea praised the firefighters’ efforts to contain the fire.
“They did an amazing job containing it to what it was,” Sen Const Hills said.