THOUSANDS of motorists faced lengthy delays when a lorry fire on the A64 lasted for more than seven hours.

The trailer caught fire near Barton Hill between York and Malton, just after 4.30am yesterday.

The driver managed to uncouple the cab from the rest of the vehicle as the flames took hold, but the fire burned until 11.45am and the road remained closed long afterwards.

The road was shut in both directions between Malton and the turn-off for Castle Howard and Welburn, leading to tailbacks. The fire spread through tyres, masking tape and other items which were being carried on the trailer.

Press reader Andy Paton, who lives in a farmhouse overlooking the scene, photographed the fire. He said he was woken by a “loud explosion”.

He said: “When I looked out of the bedroom window, there was a huge fire as the trailer was burning fiercely. Luckily the driver had managed to uncouple the cab, although he had not been able to make it to a layby so the lorry was still in the traffic lane.

“The fire brigade arrived soon after and started to douse the flames. My first thought was whether the driver was in danger, but then I saw the cab about 20 to 30 metres way. There was quite a lot of smoke, but it was blowing away from us.” The lorry driver is not believed to have been injured.

After firefighters left, Highways Agency teams set up temporary traffic lights to allow one lane of the A64 to reopen at about 2.30pm as they resurfaced the patch of the road where the intense heat of the fire had led to the trailer melting into the tarmac.

Shortly after 7pm traffic was reported to have returned to normal when the temporary lights were taken down after the emergency repair work was finished.

North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service said the driver had raised the alarm when the trailer caught fire, with some of its contents later being removed by a JCB. The cause of the blaze is not yet known.