The contents of a recycling truck caught on fire at around 12 p.m. on Oct. 22, prompting the driver to dump the burning pile of refuse onto Arizona Ave. by the 3rd St. intersection.

According to Santa Monica Fire Department Battalion Chief Jeff Connor, the driver did this in line with protocol to prevent the diesel-fueled truck from catching fire.

SMFD responded to a call for service at 12:04 p.m. and deployed one engine, one truck company, one rescue vehicle, one battalion vehicle and a total of eleven fire personnel. The fire was extinguished, all debris removed and the street reopened by approximately 1:40 p.m.

Santa Monica Police Department personnel were also on scene and helped to temporarily close off the surrounding portion of Arizona Ave. to traffic. Resource Recovery & Recycling and Wastewater Management assisted in responding to the incident. 

RR&R staff brought a loader machine to spread out the smoldering material so that SMFD could ensure that fire was extinguished across the entire pile of refuse. RR&R staff members also brought out a dumpster to remove the waste and a street sweeper was arranged to conduct a final clean up of the area. 

“It was nice to have all the agencies working together, because we couldn’t do it by ourselves and they couldn’t, but together we could do it,” said Connor.

Connor said that the quick dumping action of the driver saved the truck from significant fire damage. This eliminated the risk of the diesel and hydraulic fluid in the truck catching fire and saved the “several hundreds of thousands of dollars” it would cost to replace the vehicle. 

According to Connor, these trash truck fire incidents occur once or twice a year. Drivers collect refuse all day and occasionally there might be smoldering material inside a bin such as a discarded cigarette butt. 

“It will smolder for a while because the contents of that truck are so tight, but eventually it’s going to find some oxygen and all of a sudden you’re going to have a fire,” said Connor. “The drivers don’t really know when they’re picking up the material if there’s going to be a smoldering fire in the barrel that they picked up. It happens every once in a while.”