Quick-thinking driver saves more than 100 head of cattle from Tanami Road truck fire

A quick-thinking truck driver saved more than 100 head of cattle after one of his trailers caught fire while he was traveling on one of the Northern Territory’s roughest and most remote roads.

Late last month Cory Stirling was transporting six decks of cattle to Alice Springs via the Tanami Road when he heard a loud bang at about 10pm.

Colloquially known as the Tanami, the road connects Central Australia to the Kimberley region of WA, stretches over 1,000 kilometers, and is notorious for its poor condition.

Mr Stirling explained he pulled the road train up immediately and ran down the side of the 50-meter-long rig to find his rear airbag brake had blown and was on fire.

“I saw my airbag was alight so, I just ran back up to my truck to grab my fire extinguisher, went back, tried to extinguish, but it ran out of fire powder,” Mr Stirling said.

“Then it got under the tires, then once they lit up, she was all over.”

Fire damage on a road train trailer.
Fire damage to a trailer on the Tanami Road.(Supplied)

Mr Stirling had to act quickly to separate the trailers to ensure the safety of the cattle.

“I dropped the front run-throughs and then just started jumping as many cattle off [as possible]” he said.

One died on the crate and another had to be euthanized.

“It’s tough — it’s really tough,” Mr Stirling said.

“You’ve got love animals and if you love doing something, like I love carting cattle… it’s really tough to watch.”

A representative of the station where the cattle came from has informed ABC Rural that the remaining cattle on the front two trailers have safely arrived in Alice Springs.

The cattle let off the burning trailer were tracked by helicopters the next morning and moved to a water point on a nearby station and will be collected at a later date.

A defaced road sign with red dirt in the background
A defaced truck stop road sign along the Tanami Road.(ABC Rural: Hugo Rikard-Bell )

Poor condition of Tanami an old enemy

Mr Stirling pointed to the poor condition of the road as the primary culprit for the loss of cattle and damage to his truck.

“You have a brand-new crate that could do the same thing,” he said.

“You prepare yourself for it, but it’s very harsh conditions, you let your tires down to half the percent of PSI but still it’s terrible.”

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