A TRUCK driver jumped from his rig north of Holbrook early yesterday moments before it exploded in flames.
The 46-year-old from South Gippsland could do nothing but stand in a Hume Freeway parking bay and watch as fire destroyed his B-double truck, two refrigerated trailers and a load of perishable food.
Firefighters took almost eight hours to put out the fire – most of that time spent detecting and dampening hot spots.
Rural Fire Service crews from the Book Book brigade were called to the scene about 40km north of Holbrook at 1am.
The duty officer at Wagga, John Baker, said an engine turbo had probably sparked the fire.
“The engine caught fire so the driver pulled into a parking area on the northbound lane of the freeway just over a hill,” Mr Baker said.
“As he pulled over it just kept burning.
“There was nothing he could do about it.”
Mr Baker said the fire was at its most fierce when the brigade arrived.
“The whole cabin, the whole truck was on fire,” he said.
“It’s all gone.”
The Book Book units did not return to base until 9am.
Mr Baker said it became more difficult to extinguish the fire once it got into the load on the trailer.
“The back load was packed in so tight — once fire gets in there and you start pulling the load out, you release oxygen and the fire flares,” he said.
“By the time you go through the process of getting everything in place to pull the load apart, a lot of time has passed.
“The fire just keeps smouldering.”
Mr Baker said the parking bay was far enough from the freeway not to interfere with traffic.
Inspector Lynelle Rodwell, of Albury, said the truck was travelling from Braeside in Melbourne to Wetherill Park, Sydney.
She said the driver had heard a loud bang from the engine before the truck lost power, so he steered the rig into the parking bay.
“Other truck drivers in the bay tried to put out the fire with extinguishers to no avail,” she said.
NSW Fire and Rescue crews attended to deal with any diesel leak.
It took hours to remove the truck wreckage.