Belfast Telegraph

Video: Lorry drives through Northern Ireland town as fire engulfs hay load

Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

A lorry driver had a lucky escape after the load of hay he was carrying caught fire outside a Co Armagh care home.

The quick actions of two passers-by alerted the driver to the blaze yesterday morning.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) was called to the scene in a residential area of the Gilford Road in Lurgan at 8.30am as the front of the five-pile high load of hay and truck cab were ablaze.

In an effort to fight the inferno, which took place just outside Belvedere Private Residential Care Home, the lorry driver attempted to deal with the blaze using two fire extinguishers as he waited for fire crews.

Speaking at the scene, passers-by Francis Girvan and Sean Daly said a huge amount of white smoke was billowing from the hay as they drove past the lorry.

They waved down the driver - who appeared to be unaware of the danger - to get him to stop.

In a last-ditch attempt to save the lorry's cab, the driver detached it from the load and allowed it to roll forward, but the blaze had already taken hold.

"We were driving up the road and noticed the top of the hay was on fire and we beeped the horn and waved him down," Mr Girvan, from Dungannon, explained.

"He stopped in the middle of the road and the fire was getting heavier and heavier.

"We told him we had a couple of fire extinguishers in our van so the lorry driver tried to put it out with them.

"He was on the phone to the fire brigade but when he tried to put the fire out with the fire extinguishers it just wasn't happening."

Mr Daly, from Coalisland, added that they had shouted at the driver to alert him to the fire.

"We screamed 'your load's on fire!' and he pulled in because he mustn't have realised," he continued.

"It must have been burning for a while. The driver climbed up on top of the cab to try and put it out, but all of a sudden a big load of hay came down on the road.

"By the time the fire extinguishers ran out the fire brigade was here."

Apart from the cancellation of a few non-emergency hospital appointments, the residents in Belvedere care home were unaffected.

Sarah Anderson, the home's deputy manager, said that their immediate fear was the possible explosion of the lorry's cab, but that they were told by the emergency services to close their windows due to the smoke.

"Nobody was distressed and the fire service were fantastic," she said.

"The police have been very good and allowed visitors and staff to drive through the cordon, park on the main road and walk up.

"District nurses have been parking down the road and they have been able to get in too.

"We offered the fire brigade tea and coffee and if they needed the toilet they were told to just come on in."

Residents were later allowed access to and from the area as the hay was dismantled for firefighters to douse it with water.

The PSNI attended in a traffic management capacity as the Gilford Road was closed between Upper and Lower Toberhewny Lane.

Geoff Somerville, Group Commander with the NIFRS, said the incident was declared over shortly after 4.30pm.

He said that the cause of the blaze was being treated as accidental.

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