A lorry driver whose load of hay caught fire as he travelled along the M3 was alerted to the blaze by other motorists, it has been revealed.

The driver of the HGV pulled into Fleet Services on Wednesday evening, where the vehicle was left burnt and blackened.

Peter Cousins, site director at the busy motorway services area, said: "The driver was unaware of the fire initially, but after a while noticed other road users trying to alert him to a problem.

"He pulled into the car park, realised the lorry was on fire, and moved it to the end of the slip road, away from everything else."

The vehicle was carrying 16 tonnes of barn straw, which was left smoking and smouldering for hours after it caught alight just after 5pm.

Diesel from the heavy goods vehicle also spilled out but did not ignite.

More than 20 firefighters battled the blaze, the cause of which is still unknown.


"We re-opened at 4am after we had thoroughly made sure it was safe to do so," continued Mr Cousins.

"The firefighters continued to damp down and left at around midnight.

"We then started the clean-up job. The Highways Agency assisted us in getting the vehicle moved.

"We are very glad no-one was injured and no damage was done, except to the lorry of course.

"The hay just kept on burning. The driver seemed to stay very calm.

"He was picked up by people from his head office at around 8.30pm."

Motorists faced lengthy delays on the M3 with congestion stretching back to Farnborough. There was no access to the services and the slip road was closed after the incident.

"We get four to five million people visit us per year, so we do get the odd unusual event, but this is the first time I have had anything like this," Mr Cousins said.

A Hampshire Fire Service spokeswoman said: "We sent an engine from Hartley Wintney, two from Rushmoor and two water carriers from Camberley and Basingstoke.

"Firefighters left the scene at around 12.30am [on Thursday]. They said it was very hard work."