Fire scene

Emergency personnel responded to this tanker truck fire on U.S. Highway 59, just north of Lufkin, around 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

An 18-wheeler driver hauling jet fuel narrowly escaped the cab of his truck when it caught fire just before noon Saturday on U.S. Highway 59 north.

The driver told a Texas Department of Public Safety dispatcher he was headed north on U.S. 59 when he heard a pop under his hood. He said the next thing he knew, fire was coming into the cab from the front of the truck.

Retaining walls on either side of U.S. 59 prevented him from pulling the truck over, so he stopped on the highway and bailed out moments before the truck burst into flames, the dispatcher said.

The driver was reportedly shaken but physically uninjured.

A woman riding with another truck driver who pulled up on the fire as it was happening described the scene.

“We saw flames coming from beneath his truck,” she said. “We took off running because they said he was carrying jet fuel. ... I don’t believe it exploded, but we heard a lot of popping and crackling. Then the fire trucks came. ... I know it was scary.

“People were going past him and everything. We told them not to, but they went ahead. They were lucky.”

Numerous volunteer firefighters and the Lufkin Fire Department extinguished the blaze within minutes.

Traffic was rerouted in the area by Lufkin Police to the south and Nacogdoches Police to the north.

Due’s Wrecker removed the truck from the scene.

Jessica Cooley's email address is jcooley@lufkindailynews.com.