— Twice in the last few months, garbage and recycling trucks have mysteriously caught fire. And firefighters have identified the likely culprits: Unknowing homeowners tossing flammable materials in their trash.
In each of the Coral Springs incidents, Waste Pro drivers noticed smoke pouring out of the back steel containers, stopped and called 911. When firefighters opened the containers, they saw the flames.
“It’s a good thing these aren’t scratch and sniff photos!” the Coral Springs Fire Department wrote on its Facebook page that showed firefighters at work — amid a blizzard of trash emptied out of the bins.
Waste Pro Regional Vice President Russell Mackie said the burning trash is quickly emptied so the truck doesn’t catch on fire, too.
“Once the truck becomes engulfed, you have an explosive situation,” Mackie said. “The trash being ejected might seem like a mess, but all that’s going to burn is the pile of trash — you put a bonfire in the street. But when it burns out, it burns out. It’s a more manageable situation.”
Mackie said the company usually deals with 15 or 16 garbage truck fires a year nationwide. The usual cause: Paint products, pool chemicals or hazardous materials such as gasoline. “People think if they put it out in a plastic bag it’s not going to harm anything, but that metal starts crushing the trash, and it breaks whatever container it’s in.”
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City Hall even admonished residents on its Facebook page: “Waste Pro trucks run on natural gas, so it is important that you don’t throw out anything flammable, such as weed trimmers, propane tanks, fuel cells, lighter fluid and similar materials. Otherwise, you could unintentionally be putting lives at risk.”
Said Fire Chief Frank Babinec: “We want people to pay attention to what they’re throwing in their trash bins.”
Rich Michaud, the city’s director of Public Works, said the city will not be billed for the damage.
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