First police officer at A27 fire tells of lorry blaze drama

The scene of the accident Picture: Ron Cardinal
The scene of the accident Picture: Ron Cardinal
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EXPLOSIONS, flames and billowing smoke confronted the first police officer to arrive at the A27 lorry fire.

PC Alex Dale, from Fratton Roads Policing Unit was on routine patrol in the area when he was sent to the blaze.

He arrived in a minute after being called and said his top concern was the safety of people near the flames.

PC Dale has now spoken about the incident, and said: ‘Being the first one I was confronted with the lorry blazing and billowing smoke into the air.

‘I was then confronted with explosions with the tyres, as the heat causes them to go.

‘It’s probably the biggest fire I’ve ever seen on a strategic road.’

He was concerned about what could be in the lorry but the driver, who was unhurt, was able to tell him there were no chemicals inside.

PC Dale added: ‘In terms of the actual visual impact, the smoke billowing and the ash and the fire taking hold of the lorry, it was one of the most impactive things I’ve seen.

‘You’ve never been so glad to see the fire service arrive when you’re faced with this.

‘The big bits of debris were flapping around a bit.

‘They’d been lifted by the wind and were only attached by a thin bit of metal. The shell just fell apart.

‘The lorry disintegrated before my eyes. It was quite something to see, fortunately after the fire was put out we managed to strap it down and reduce the risk.’

Hampshire police’s force control room and the Highways Agency co-ordinated road closures and diversions.

As reported, the major fire on the A27 flyover Eastern Road at 1.34pm yesterday wreaked havoc with the city’s roads and there were tailbacks on the M27 for seven miles back to junction nine.

PC Dale said there were reports of drivers using the hard shoulder in a bid to escape the congestion.

He added: ‘It was a critical incident with such a knock-on effect for so many people.

‘You’re always conscious that whatever you’re going is going to have major implications for anyone in the city.’

Crew manager David Tinkley, from Cosham fire station’s white watch was in the support crew at the fire.

He said: ‘The lorry had jackknifed and it was on fire quite badly. It was completely wrecked. We ended up supporting the first crews there with extra manpower.

‘The trucks carry a limited amount of foam and we came with extra water and foam.’

He added a lorry fire is more dangerous than a small car fire as there are parts of a lorry, including its brakes, that can explode and fly out.

The fire service, police and Highways Agency have been praised by city leaders.

Councillor Donna Jones, city council leader, said: ‘I’d like to pay tribute to the emergency services involved who worked professionally and tirelessly to avoid any deaths or further accidents.’

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt added: ‘People have done an absolutely terrific job. I’m very conscious of the great job that everyone did in terms of working together.’

Police are investigating the crash. The lorry driver declined to comment when approached by The News.

Work to repair the damage to the flyover carried on last night.

Highways Agency contractors closed the A27 flyover at the Eastern Road at 10pm to carry out an inspection and repairs to the parapet.

Traffic was diverted down off the A27 and back on to it.

On Tuesday night 55 people worked on the road. They had to take up the black top and smooth out the layer underneath.

The agency worked round-the-clock to repair the barrier and surface.

One lane along the stretch of road remained closed throughout yesterday.