A Stratford woman died in a burning car as emergency workers, passing motorists and nearby residents desperately battled the relentless fire to try to save her.

Police officers used seven fire extinguishers to try put out the electrical fire that started under the bonnet of the woman's car sparked by a head-on collision near Stratford on Sunday night.

A neighbour said she was sitting outside her house when she heard a loud crash at about 7.55pm.

"There was a smash and then silent ... no braking." The sound was etched in her mind.

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She went to take a closer look and as she reached Mountain Rd, near the Bidd Rd intersection, heard another motorist screaming frantically.

"He was saying we need to get this lady out, this car is on fire.

"He was just screaming, 'we need to get her out, we need to get her out, she's trapped'."

Her husband grabbed a fire extinguisher and tried to put the fire out until police arrived several minutes later.

"Every time they tried to put it out it would flick up a little bit," she said.

The car appeared to have been heading north towards Stratford and had crossed the centre line, smashing head-on into a van, the neighbour said.

Both vehicles ended up in the right-hand side of the south-bound passing lane.

Stratford deputy fire chief Kevan Old said one of the vehicles was on fire when they arrived and the police used seven extinguishers to try and get it out.

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"It was electrical under the bonnet and it was very difficult to get out," Old said.

"Once we got the initial flame out it just kept smouldering away."

It took firefighters about 10 minutes to put the fire out and then they were able to remove the woman from the car quite easily, he said.

Old said in his 24 years in the fire service, it was only the second or third crash he had attended where a car had caught fire on impact.

"It doesn't happen often. We knew there were persons trapped before we left the station - it came up on my pager - so we actually geared up to deal with that."

He said there was a lot of pressure knowing someone was in the car and to get them out without getting burnt as well.

Old said the community had been left shocked by the fatal crash as there hadn't been one in Stratford for some time.

The driver of the van was taken to hospital in a serious condition and the police serious crash unit is investigating.