A truck driver’s quick-thinking and fast actions are being credited with preventing a major disaster along Nova Scotia’s Cobequid Pass.

Shortly before 8 a.m. Thursday, the driver noticed smoke in the cab of his tractor-trailer, which was pulling a tanker filled with 18,000 cubic metres of liquid oxygen.

Police say the man quickly pulled off Highway 104 at Exit 7 near Oxford and separated the tanker from the cab.

“It was getting hotter, a little bit of flame was showing. At that point, he made the quick, very quick decision to get out of his truck, unhook the chemicals, the oxygen he was hauling, and then get back into the truck, putting himself into a little bit of jeopardy and move his truck away,” says Cumberland RCMP Const. Travise Dow.

Liquid oxygen doesn’t burn, but it would feed a large, fierce fire that would burn for hours.

Mike Johnson, the coordinator for Cumberland County’s Emergency Measures Organization, says the incident could have ended in tragedy if the driver hadn’t separated the cab from the tanker so quickly.

“The oxygen, had it escaped, it could have fed the fire of the truck and could have changed the incident significantly, likely causing the closure of the highway and potentially an explosion,” says Johnson.

The 27-year-old driver was not injured. Police and EMO officials say, while drivers are trained to handle such situations, they are impressed by the man’s actions.

“Courage, bravery, absolutely; to go against the grain of what your natural instincts would say to you, to get away,” says Johnson.

“He prevented the further deployment of resources for Nova Scotia with Hazmat teams, things like that, so his fast action really saved a lot more of the incident, which could have been more of a disaster,” says Dow.

The fire was quickly extinguished and, once fuels were removed from the truck, it was taken away by early Thursday afternoon.

Part of the highway was closed for about an hour as officials assessed the scene. It has since reopened to traffic.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Dan MacIntosh