Great bales of fire! Dare-devil driver’s flaming Ottery dash drama

A BRAVE lorry driver steered a burning 20-tonne hay fireball away from Ottery residents, homes and shops in a frantic bid to avoid a town-centre catastrophe.

A BRAVE lorry driver steered a burning 20-tonne hay fireball away from Ottery residents, homes and shops in a frantic bid to avoid a town-centre catastrophe.

Quick-thinking dad-of-four Cedric Dare has been hailed a hero after he literally blazed a trail through country lanes to safely jettison the massive flaming load in a field on Tuesday. The Dare-ing dash out of town left 400 metres of flaming hedgerows and hay in its wake.

Scores of firefighters followed in hot pursuit after startled town-centre on-lookers dialled 999 and desperately tried to flag the huge lorry down.

The 16feet high hay bales are believed to have touched a live power line in Hind Street, sparking the flames at around 1pm.

“Nothing was going to stop me getting to that field,” said Cedric, 46, a lorry driver of 20 years, “My hand was on the horn and I was coming through.

“I needed to get out of town. My main concern was people’s safety.”

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The blaze saw the stretch of road linking Claremont Field to Coombe Cross shut for three hours as four fire crews tackled the inferno’s trail of destruction.

A �7,000 trailer and 20 tonnes of hay were completely destroyed as they burnt in the middle of a nearby field.

Temperatures generated by flames were so intense the trailer’s alloy wheels melted.

Cedric had hauled the �2,000 load more than 100 miles from Andover, and was just minutes from his destination when the blaze took hold.

“A lot of straw was beginning to flame and fell off the back as I was going,” he said,

“I could see smoke pouring out, it was getting more and more fierce as time went on.”

Cedric, from Honiton, escaped uninjured- as did his cherished cab. “I’m glad because it is my home four days a week,” he said.

Group manager Ally Macdonald of the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service said: “The driver’s actions saved a potentially disastrous situation.

“He was extremely brave and deserves praise for his quick-thinking.”

He added flames could have spread to nearby buildings if the lorry had remained in the town-centre, and the loss of 400meters of hedgerow was preferable to someone’s home.

Rachel Down, a negotiator at Halls estate agents, witnessed the drama unfold as she sat at her desk. She said: “My first reaction when it drove through the Square was what a huge lorry and what an enormous load of hay- I’d never seen that much. Then I saw smoke bellowing out from the top. People were looking and pointing.”

Ottery PC Jim Tyrrell said: “It was a good bit of quick thinking. He did the right thing. Someone could have been burnt by a falling bale if he had stayed in town. Rather than hanging about in a built up area he drove away.”

Tim Slade, of Sidmouth Fire Service, said at the scene: “Had hay bales started falling in the town it would have been a different story. From our point of view we’re very grateful. It was quite dramatic and not something you see very often.”

Specialist equipment from Exeter was drafted in to help Honiton, Sidmouth and Colyton fire crews tackle hedgerow flames and to control the burning hay-load and trailer.