'I was just waiting for it to explode': Hero lorry driver praised for efforts after devastating fire
- 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.
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.
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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."
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.
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.
"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.
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."
The Comet has approached Redcorn for comment and to pass on Mimi's words, commending the driver for his bravery.