Preventing Garbage Truck Fires -11/2/17

This may not be the picture you want to see in your neighborhood – a pile of hot smoldering trash or recycling in the middle of your street, but it is the safest way to prevent a catastrophe says Robert Norton, the General Manager at All Waste, Inc.  “Most refuse or recycling truck fires start with improperly discarded items that wind up in the load, not resulting from anything wrong with the truck.”  Some of the regular culprits are ashes from wood stoves thought to be out, to pool or other chemicals which interact once combined, and even a discarded lit cigarette left to smolder.

Load fires are the most common type of truck fire in the refuse/recycling industry.  Often there is little evidence of a problem until the material has been dumped into the back of the truck, and air introduced by driving down the street.  A barely smoldering fire can be fanned to become a free burning problem.  Once going, the only safe way to extinguish it is to dump the load out onto the ground, and allow the local Fire Department to hose down.

Many new trucks have the added complication of being fueled by Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).  All Waste, Inc. has converted its fleet of front line residential and commercial collection vehicles to CNG.  “It’s much better for the environment and in turn with our mission to be a green, pro-active company is a great value for our customers” said Norton.  The trucks are engineered to be extremely safe; however load fires can heat the CNG storage tanks, raise pressure, and cause them to “off-gas.”  Thus the reason to discharge any load fire as soon as possible, which is the standard of the industry.

As the wood-burning season gets into full swing here in Connecticut, all customers are asked not to dispose of ashes in their trash, but to use them as part of a comprehensive composting/recycling program.  The ash will help with the pH levels in a homeowners compost pile and make it a better product for flowers and plants in the spring.

All Waste, Inc. provides CNG fire safety training for local first responder agencies by contacting our company at

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