ONE thousand litres of diesel went up in smoke in a Grittenham fire at a skip hire business this morning.

Two lorries and a portable building were completely destroyed in the blaze at 1st Choice Skips, Whites Farm, which is believed to have been started by an electrical fault in the lorry.

The Environment Agency had to attend after some of the diesel ran into drains.

The fuel container had been locked inside a lorry because fuel thieves had targeted the firm at Christmas time.

Owner Malcolm Smart first noticed something was wrong at 9.10am while he was talking to a customer on the phone.

“I heard a pop,” said Mr Smart, who runs the business with his son.

“I saw lots of smoke billowing out and within a matter of seconds the whole lorry was in flames and it was all panic, you know.

"I shouted, 'give me a hand' and we moved the other lorries out the way.

“I had furniture in the front of the lorry as well because I just moved house, and my workshop, my tools.

“We had diesel pinched at Christmas so that’s the only reason I had it in a locked container in the lorry.”

Firefighters arrived in 15 minutes and managed to save the barn just 10 ft from the lorry. It suffered only slight damage to the roof.

It took four fire crews from Swindon and Cricklade half an hour to bring the blaze under control.

They were still on site at 1pm damping down the scorched remains, standing close to the company’s 400 skips which were unharmed.

Mr Smart said: “The firefighters were brilliant, amazing. The whole building could have gone up without them.”

Greg Izon, watch manager for Swindon’s Green watch, said: “You could see the smoke from junction 16, it was thick black smoke from the hydrocarbons.

"There was a very strong wind but we were lucky with the wind direction, it was blowing away from the building.”