A MOUNTAIN rescue volunteer needed rescuing herself after her car caught fire in a snowstorm on the highest classified road in England.

Isabella De Santis was driving across Harthope Moss, on the North Pennines, in County Durham, on Saturday morning, and had almost reached the highest point of the road when she noticed smoke coming from the foot well of her Renault.

She was driving slowly because of the wintry conditions and soon after she stopped the car to investigate the smoke, the vehicle was engulfed in flames.

Miss De Santis, from East Hedleyhope, in County Durham, who has volunteered with Teesdale and Weardale Search and Mountain Rescue Team for 13 years, said: “I was surprised at how quickly it went up.

“I moved uphill and upwind of the smoke and called the fire brigade.”

Fire crews from Stanhope and Middleton-in-Teesdale attended the scene, along with Miss De Santis’s fellow rescue team member Scott Bisset, who lives in nearby St John’s Chapel, to drive her back home.

She had been on the way to a medical training exercise with the rescue team, at Langdon Beck, in Upper Teesdale, and lost a lot of outdoor-related kit in the blaze.

Miss De Santis, who runs an outdoor education company, School Explorers, said: “That was a hassle and a bit of a pain, but to put it into perspective at least it was just ‘stuff’ that was lost rather than people’s lives and no-one was hurt.

“We work closely with all the emergency services, so it was a little bit strange when people we normally work alongside were helping me.

“It makes you realise what people on the other side (of the rescue) are going through. You don’t normally get that insight.

“I have no idea what caused the fire. It has been suggested it may have been electrical. It was just one of those unfortunate things.”

Harthope Moss, which is also known as Chapel Fell, connects Upper Weardale to Upper Teesdale and Cumbria.