Authorities responded to the school bus fire on the 101 South at Universal Center Drive just after 9 a.m. during the busy morning commute.
"The first thing I saw was a bunch of smoke coming from the front window and then I heard screaming," said third grader Trisha Khandelwal, who was one of roughly three dozen kids, parents and teachers riding the bus when it stalled.
Teacher Cathy Peters said smoke started to pour into the cabin from the front of the bus so the adults opened the emergency doors and moved the kids to the back.
"It was progressing really rapidly and we were on the freeway so we were afraid to get out," said Peters.
But when the smoke grew thicker, Peters said they had no choice but to evacuate onto the freeway. Startled motorists jumped from vehicles to kick open doors and help children out of a blazing school bus.
"Several of them stopped, got out of their cars, helped us get the kids out of the bus in a timely fashion," said Peters. "By the time we made it out of the bus -- probably four minutes -- the entire bus was fully engulfed."
No one was injured in the fire, though the bus was completely gutted by flames. Two children complained of minor smoke inhalation and were examined by paramedics at the scene.
The 8- and 9-year-olds from Flory Academy in Moorpark were on a field trip headed for the California Science Center. Another bus arrived a short time later to pick them up.
The California Highway Patrol is investigating the cause of the fire, which caused southbound freeway lanes to close for more than an hour.