TWO people were moments from being engulfed in a fire that tore through the car they had been driving on the M4 on Saturday.

Shortly after 12.30pm, Wiltshire Fire & Rescue received a call to a major car fire between Junctions 15 and 16 westbound on the motorway.

The pair, who the emergency services did not identify, had pulled onto the hard shoulder between the A4361 flyover and Junction 16 after experiencing a loss of power in their maroon Volkswagen Golf.

They left the car and just moments later looked back to see it alight, just yards away.

A passing ambulance came to the pair’s aid and drove them to a nearby service station. Neither person was injured.

The incident forced a two-lane closure by the Highways Agency, which directed traffic down the outside lane while two appliances from Stratton extinguished the blazing wreck.

The remaining shell of the car was recovered shortly before 2.30pm and the two lanes officially reopened at 2.40pm.

Witnesses on a nearby footbridge said the fire appeared to be extinguished on several occasions before reigniting and requiring further attention.

Stratton watch manager Kit Watson led the efforts to fight the fire. He said: “They were in their 20s. They experienced a technical fault as they were driving.

“They noticed, when they were outside the vehicle, the fire had started when they looked back on the vehicle.

“Because of the nature of the materials in a car, they can be very flammable. This has been an awkward one.”

The Highways Agency has reported scorch marks on the hard shoulder as a result of the blaze and said repairs will be made to the tarmac at some point in the next week.

In a separate incident, motorists were gridlocked in West Swindon after a 25-metre-high tree fell across Tewkesbury Way shortly before 2pm and struck a car, blocking both carriageways.

The road was closed in both directions until 3.30pm.

The tree fell between the Mannington and Toothill roundabouts, close to the footbridge which crosses Tewkesbury Way.

Neither the driver nor the one passenger in the car, believed to be a blue MG ZS, were reported as hurt. The married couple were reportedly in their 50s.

The car was travelling towards Mannington when the tree struck. The windscreen was shattered, the driver’s wing mirror broken and panels damaged on the car.

The tree was rotten and considered unstable by police officers at the scene. Swindon Council was called to the scene of the incident, where its team chopped the tree into pieces and carted it away.