THE quick actions of Mathoura Rural Fire Brigade saved a petrol tanker carrying 36,000 litres of fuel from exploding after it caught fire north of the town this morning.

The Toll truck was driving along the Cobb Hwy towards Deniliquin, about 4km north of Mathoura, when the driver noticed the rear on fire about 5am.

Mid-Murray Rural Fire Service superintendent Tony Whitehorn said when Mathoura RFS arrived on the scene, firefighters found the tanker – which was carrying 11,000 litres of unleaded fuel and 25,000 of diesel – ablaze.

‘‘The rear tanker was well alight with flames up over the top of the tanker,’’ he said.

‘‘It started in the tri-axle of the fuel tanker.

‘‘The RFS crew, using breathing apparatus and foam, extinguished the fire without the fuel tanker erupting or exploding.

‘‘Within 10 minutes of arriving, the Mathoura crew had knocked the flames down and were cooling the fuel in the tanker, which was when they noticed a small split in the cells of the diesel tanker.

‘‘They continued to cool the fuel cell and black out the fire until Fire and Rescue began decanting the fuel and Hazmat started the clean up.

‘‘A bulk water carrier from Deniliquin also assisted.’’

Mr Whitehorn said the tanker driver was out of the vehicle when crews arrived.

‘‘He was safe and unharmed,’’ he said.

Mr Whitehorn said it was quite a dangerous fire, with 36,000 litres of flammable liquid having the potential to explode and spread.

‘‘The quick response and thinking of fire crews saved it from a much worse outcome,’’ he said.

‘‘It was excellent firefighting from the Mathoura crew.’’

Both lanes of the highway were closed for several hours, with diversions in place for traffic.

Extracted in full from: Fire crews save petrol tanker from going up in flames near Mathoura (