Garbage truck catches fire
By Kathryn Purcell
After picking up the last Dumpster on his route, Bobby Renfroe was driving a normal day's route down Highway 83 last Wednesday when an explosion jarred him to attention. It came from the general direction of the back of his garbage truck.
"It's a scary feeling," Renfroe, a driver for Sinclair Disposal Service out of Milledgeville, said.
By the time he made it to Berryman's Service Station in downtown Madison and was able to pull over, the rising smoke was billowing out of the back of his truck.
"I smelled it when he was coming down the road," service station owner David Berryman said.
The City of Madison Fire Department was contacted and around 10 firefighters and volunteers came out to help put out the fire, but, despite their best efforts, smoke still rose from the truck.
Concerned that continuing to drive the truck would allow fast-moving air to worsen the fire, Fire Chief Tim Carter made the decision for Renfroe to take the truck to the Morgan County Transfer Station, where the load of trash would be dumped so that the cause of the fire could be determined and completely extinguished.
"What we think happened was the last load that he picked up had some construction materials in it that someone had burning that had some embers in it, and it caught fire going down the road," Carter said.
According to Renfroe, the last load he picked up came from the Good Hope area, while the explosion occurred near Tamplin Road, going towards Madison on Highway 83.
Sinclair Disposal Service General Manager John Witherspoon thinks that the initial explosion was caused by combustible material in the truck.
"It was probably some combustible material from one of our commercial customers," Witherspoon said. "Once it got in the truck, it probably reacted against other materials in there and caught fire...We have to caution our customers all the time not to put hazardous or flammable materials in containers."
Once Renfroe made it to the Transfer Station and the load was dumped, the firefighters had the fire extinguished in five minutes, according to Carter.
Witherspoon credits the training of the driver as well as the work of the City of Madison Fire Department with preventing what could've been a much bigger fire.
"We train our drivers to recognize it (fire) immediately," Witherspoon said. "They're trained to make sure the blaze is packed back, and to contact the fire department immediately...Great thanks to the fire department and Morgan County Transfer [Station]; their assistance prevented a major problem."
According to Witherspoon, there was minimal damage to the Sinclair truck. All that it requires is a new paint job.