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Edward's recent post reminded me my own personal encounter with a flaming vehicle. About ten years ago, my family plus my mum and dad were driving down to Dover to catch the car ferry to France for a brief tour of the Pas-de-Calais. With my father driving, we'd started very early in the morning, and had made good speed as we drove into Dover with the ferry terminal only about a mile away.

Sitting in the back, I wasn't really awake, but a persistent and loud series of horn blasts from the car behind roused me. I peered out to the rear of the car to see what all the fuss was about and noticed a large plume of smoke billowing out from the back of the Mercedes. "Dad, the car's on fire", I found myself saying, wondering really if I was still asleep and dreaming.

We pulled over very quickly to the side of road, just by a bridge, and jumped out. Thick smoke and flickering flames were coming from the rear by the exhaust. I got out my film camera and started shooting – the insurance company might appreciate the shots, I thought.

At first, I expected a rapid conflagration but the car was diesel and diesel does not burn like petrol, thank goodness. My father, perhaps rather foolhardily, even popped the trunk and began dragging out smoldering suitcases.

There he is, getting stuff from the back seat.

Maybe not the smartest plan. Nonetheless, he got a lot of things out and got no burns in the process. Amazingly.The fire spread further as the fuel heated up. By now, several cars had stopped by and people were calling the fire services on their mobile phones. Fairly quickly after that, a fire engine pulled up.In just a few minutes the fire was out, the burned-out Mercedes sat by the side of the road, a sorry sight indeed.My dad still wanted to go on to France, but the rest of us were too shook up to think about anything but going home and resting. We hired a car, and I drove sedately back to the house.

I never did get an answer as to what exactly caused the fire. But the insurance company paid up, I'm glad to say.