Moment hero trucker leaped into cab of blazing lorry to drive it clear of Christmas shoppers before it exploded into flamesHero driver jumped back into lorry as Christmas shoppers watched
Video captures the moment flames break out as driver, named as Martin Ford, moves lorry to quieter street100,000 worth of furniture destroyed in blaze

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UPDATED:

01:19 GMT, 1 December 2012

This is the dramatic moment a lorry driver leapt into his blazing truck and steered it away from a busy high street.

Martin Ford risked his life to drive the burning vehicle away from hundreds of Christmas shoppers.

Seconds after he pulled it into a quiet side street and got out, the whole lorry, including the cab, was engulfed in flames.

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Hero to the rescue: In this image the driver, named as Martin Ford, jumps back into the vehicle to move it to safety

Hero to the rescue: In this image the driver, Martin Ford, jumps back into the vehicle as the blaze begins

Within seconds of the lorry moving off, flames can be seen burning through the trailer

Within seconds of the lorry moving off, flames can be seen burning through the trailer

Yesterday onlookers to the drama in Maidstone, Kent, hailed the quick-thinking hero as ‘truly selfless’.

Ollie Millen, 20, a labourer, who
captured Wednesday afternoon’s blaze on video, said: ‘One minute the
lorry was parked up on the street and the driver looked like he was
unloading furniture.

‘Then suddenly there was loads of
smoke and hot red flames, it just seemed to start all at once. I
couldn’t understand how it happened.’

He added: ‘I thought he was really
brave to move it, it could have exploded. The fire engines arrived four
minutes after it was driven out of the street to safety.

The hero lorry driver has been named as Martin Ford, who steered his blazing cab away from the busy street

Hero: Driver Martin Ford apparently leaped into the blazing truck to steer it away from families but the furniture - worth an estimated 100,000 and seen here in the back of the lorry - was destroyed

Hero: Driver Martin Ford apparently leaped into the blazing truck to steer it away from families but the furniture – worth an estimated 100,000 and seen here in the back of the lorry – was destroyed

Ablaze with flames: The furniture lorry caught fire in Maidstone High Street - But shoppers were saved by the quick-thinking lorry driver

Ablaze with flames: The furniture lorry caught fire in Maidstone High Street – But shoppers were saved by the quick-thinking lorry driver

‘The driver got out and punched the
wall, he looked angry at what had happened. The police arrived a little
after and everyone was asked to stay back while the situation was sorted
out.’

Sophie Griffin, who works at a nearby Jessops store, said: ‘I smelt the smoke and thought it was our shop on fire.

‘I came out and saw the lorry up in
flames.’ Mr Ford, 36, was in the process of delivering 100,000 worth of
furniture from Burnley-based PD Global when the blaze started.

In extraordinary footage, the lorry driver can be seen despairing at the blaze - before heroically jumping into the cab and steering the danger away from the narrow street, bustling with families.

Destroyed: The furniture - worth an estimated 100,000 - can be seen in the back of the lorry

Destroyed: The furniture – worth an estimated 100,000 – can be seen in the back of the lorry

The married father-of-one has worked
for the company for ten years and was described by his bosses yesterday
as their ‘best driver’.

General manager Ashleigh Pell, 60,
said: ‘Martin realised straight away that the lorry was about to set
fire to the shop he was delivering to. There were big awnings along the
side of the shop. If he hadn’t moved it, it would have been a disastrous
outcome.

‘I can certainly understand why people are saying he’s a hero, jumping into a burning wagon isn’t something everyone would do.

‘We are all extremely proud of him.’

Fire crews then came to assist, dousing the flames and ensuring less tragedy

Fire crews then came to assist, dousing the flames and ensuring less tragedy

Fireifghters closed off the streets where, just moments before, hundreds of shoppers had been Christmas shopping

Fireifghters closed off the streets where, just moments before, hundreds of shoppers had been Christmas shopping

Wrecked: The fire broke out for unknown reasons - and destroyed an estimated 100,000-worth of furniture

Wrecked: The fire broke out for unknown reasons – and destroyed an estimated 100,000-worth of furniture

Clean up: Fire crews were called to put out the blaze, which started at 4pm, on Wednesday afternoon

Clean up: Fire crews were called to put out the blaze, which started at 4pm, on Wednesday afternoon

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