'I was just waiting for it to explode': Hero lorry driver praised for efforts after devastating fire

Fire crews tackling the blaze on the A505 next to Hitchin Library didn't leave the scene until 10.45pm on Monday evening

Fire crews tackling the blaze on the A505 next to Hitchin Library didn't leave the scene until 10.45pm on Monday evening - Credit: Owain Jones/Maya Derrick

The driver of a lorry has been commended for his bravery after an "awful" fire broke out in his trailer as he drove through the streets of Hitchin.

Fire crews were alerted to the blaze at around 12.30pm on Monday, with multiple crews from Hitchin and Stevenage tackling the inferno. The cause of the fire remains unknown. 

Plumes of smoke bellow from the trailer of a lorry which burst into flames in Hitchin earlier today (July 5)

Plumes of smoke bellow from the trailer of a lorry which burst into flames in Hitchin earlier today (July 5) - Credit: Owain Jones

Witness Mimi de Wolf told the Comet how she, along with her daughter Maisie, first saw smoke rising from the lorry's trailer at the A602 roundabout near The Three Moorhens. About 10 seconds later, it burst into flames.

"I've never seen a fire like that before. It was pretty scary," she said. 

Recounting the fear of watching the fire in the moving vehicle grow more ferocious, she said that she and her daughter followed the lorry down the A602, before it came to a stop on the A505 Old Park Road, next to Hitchin Library.

The Redcorn lorry - which was ferociously alight and billowing smoke - came to a halt on the A505 Old Park Road in Hitchin

The Redcorn lorry - which was ferociously alight and billowing smoke - came to a halt on the A505 Old Park Road in Hitchin, blocking the carriageway - Credit: Maya Derrick


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With the trailer in flames, Mimi said that the driver then went back towards the blaze, uncoupling the cab from its load and driving it away from the fire.

"He really risked his life to move that cab. He just wanted to get out of the residential area and away from trees as soon as he saw it all coming up in his mirrors.

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"He was absolutely amazing."

Owain Jones said the A505 Hitchin lorry blaze was "pretty dramatic"

Owain Jones, who lives opposite where the burning lorry was positioned outside Hitchin Library, said the blaze was "pretty dramatic" - Credit: Maya Derrick

Comparing his actions to that of stuntmen in Hollywood blockbusters, she hopes others will join her in celebrating his bravery.

"It was totally well alight. The flames were as high as the whole lorry, they were massive. The whole thing was on fire, and he still went back to move the cab."

As crews tackled the fire, which was still burning well into Monday evening, a series of explosions came from the trailer, which contained crushed cars en route the industrial estate in Wallace Way.

Three fire engines from Hitchin and Stevenage remain in attendance tackling the blaze, along with an aerial ladder platform

Three fire engines from Hitchin and Stevenage remain in attendance tackling the blaze, along with an aerial ladder platform - Credit: Owain Jones

The driver - who works scrap car company Redcorn - explained to Mimi that a fire of any description had never happened to him before, but he had heard of similar incidents occurring with open-top trailers, as the wind fans the flames as drivers continue to drive.

Mimi added: "I just expected him to die. I was waiting for it to explode.

The lorry trailer in Hitchin is still smouldering three hours after fire crews were first alerted to the blaze

The lorry trailer in Hitchin is still smouldering three hours after fire crews were first alerted to the blaze - Credit: Owain Jones

"It was pretty unbelievable. But people are very resilient and pull together when they need to I suppose.

"It was just a tiny waft of smoke, and then it kind of got bigger and bigger. We couldn't see... the smoke was horrendous. He had to deal with all that as well. The smoke inhalation was serious."

The A505 Old Park Road reopened at around 10pm that evening, with the last fire crews leaving the scene by 10.45pm - more than 10 hours after being alerted to the incident.

Fire crews from Hitchin and Stevenage attended the lorry, which was ablaze on the A505 Old Park Road next to Hitchin Library

Fire crews from Hitchin and Stevenage attended the lorry, which was ablaze on the A505 Old Park Road next to Hitchin Library - Credit: Maya Derrick

A Herts County Council spokesperson said: "It proved difficult to move the lorry as the brakes were damaged in the fire and had become stuck on.

"Eventually a mechanic was able to free the brakes and we escorted the lorry to a scrap yard on Wallace Way, Hitchin, where crews emptied the lorry and cooled the scrap."

Police closed the A505 Old Park Road and Nun's Close - opposite Hitchin Library - while fire crews tackled the lorry blaze

Police closed the A505 Old Park Road and Nun's Close - opposite Hitchin Library - while fire crews tackled the lorry blaze - Credit: Maya Derrick

The Comet has approached Redcorn for comment and to pass on Mimi's words, commending the driver for his bravery.

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