THE driver of a camper van which dramatically burst into flames in Stourbridge yesterday has told the News of his ‘lucky’ escape.

Michael Powditch, aged 48, was driving along Red Hill yesterday lunchtime (Tuesday July 26) when his van suddenly went up in flames.

People in nearby streets reported hearing a loud bang and a plume of black smoke billowing into the sky.

Michael, who lives in Telford, said: “I have no idea how it started. I just pulled out into the road and heard a noise which I thought was the engine backfiring.

“The engine started to die on me, but then a passer-by ran up and started shouting that the van was on fire.

“I got out as quickly as I could and saw flames were staring to come out of the engine. A few seconds later the whole thing was up in flames.

“I really had a lucky escape.”

Click here to watch video footage from the fire.

Brierley Hill firefighters were swiftly on the scene, followed by a crew from Haden Cross, and they managed to put out the flames, which according to one onlooker were as high as the nearby trees.

Michael, who was in the van by himself, was not hurt in the drama which unfolded just after 12.45pm, but his camper van was completely destroyed.

He said: “As soon as I heard the exhaust backfire I knew something, somewhere, was very wrong.

“My first thought was just to get out as quickly as I could, but the speed at which it went up was frightening.

“I hadn’t thought to take my phone or my wallet with me, but luckily my phone was in my pocket, but I had left my wallet in the van.

“I was meant to be going on holiday next week, so I had quite a bit of money in there ready for that, but when the firefighters had put the fire out, they were actually able to recover the wallet for me still intact, so again that was very lucky.”

The road was closed to pedestrians and motorists for a number of hours while emergency service crews made the vehicle safe.

Michael added: “I would like to thank the two residents of The Heathlands, unfortunately I can’t remember their names, who took me into their home and let me tidy myself up after the fire as I was covered in ash.

“They also made me a lovely cup of tea, so I’m really grateful for their hospitality.”