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story.lead_photo.caption Fire officials in Fort Smith extinguished a large fire that started on a city bus was in a crash, requiring passengers to escape through windows before rescuers arrived on April 11, 2019. Photo by Fort Smith Fire Department.

Nearly a half-dozen people escaped through city bus windows after it caught fire and blocked exits following a Thursday morning crash in western Arkansas, officials said.

The Fort Smith Fire Department said a car hit a bus around 8:15 a.m. along Zero Street and Jenny Lind Road. The crash pushed the bus’ natural gas tank against the battery, creating a spark that set off a huge blaze.

Four passengers and the bus driver were brought to the hospital with minor injuries after the flames blocked the main exit, requiring them to jump out of windows, Fort Smith Fire Chief Phil Christensen said.

Everyone was outside the bus when fire crews arrived about two minutes after getting the call, he said.

Christensen credited their swift escape to an emergency exit check the local transit authority required for bus drivers this past week.

“That attributed greatly to the saving of lives,” he said, adding that it could have been far worse if the bus had tipped over. “We could have had five people trapped inside of a bus.“

Firefighters extinguished the blaze no more than five or 10 minutes after responding, he said. No one was hurt putting out the fire.

The fire department posted a photo of the crash Thursday, showing the badly torched and destroyed bus. The car remained in the middle of the intersection with severe front-side damage.

Large flames that sprouted from the blaze might have caused slight road damage, but it didn’t have any impact for drivers after crews cleared the charred bus a few hours later, according to the fire department.

Authorities were still investigating the fire and crash Thursday.

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