MAHWAH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A New Jersey boy is being praised for his quick thinking when his school bus caught fire Tuesday in Mahwah.

The bus that carries fourth and fifth graders burst into flames on the way to school on Chapel Road.

“Everybody thought it was going to explode, so we just got behind all these cars. Every single car that was there, they backed up,” fourth grader Rocco Arcese told CBS2’s Clark Fouraker.

The boy said the bus smelled like burning rubber, so he alerted the driver, who eventually agreed they should evacuate.

“I was like, ‘We should get off.’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, I’m packing up,’” Arcese said.

mahwah Saved By A Smell: Boy Alerts School Bus Driver To Unusual Odor Before It Goes Up In Flames

The aftermath of a school bus fire in Mahwah, NJ on June 12, 2018. (credit: Councilman Robert Hermansen)

Moments later, the front of the bus was engulfed in flames.

“It was scary, on fire. It was really hot. The scene was very hot. The flames were shooting up in the air pretty high,” said Arcese’s mother, Stacy.

Arcese was the only student on board, since the driver had just begun his morning route. Around the corner, more students were waiting to be picked up.

“You could see their faces. They were like, ‘Oh my god, is there anyone else on the bus?’ And so when they heard that everyone was off, you could see the expression they calmed down a little bit more,” Mahwah Councilman Robert Hermansen said. “It was burning. It was bad. It got going. It was crazy.”

Arcese said he told some friends at school about what happened, and he liked the sound of being called a hero.

“I don’t know why I stayed that calm… I didn’t freak out. I don’t know why,” he said

“Very proud of him,” said his mom.

To honor Arcese’s bravery, Hermansen wants to recognize him at the City Council meeting in two weeks.

The family also said they love their school bus driver and they are thankful he took the safe approach. Arcese rode the bus home from school in the afternoon.