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Firefighters battle Harristown blaze that trashes garbage trucks

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HARRISTOWN — Firefighters battled a huge Harristown blaze that destroyed at least five garbage trucks and damaged several others, leaving a bill expected to run to more than $1 million.

But it was also a story of success for the Harristown Fire Protection District and supporting fire departments who managed to save multiple other trucks from being trashed by the flames.

“We had 18 or 19 trucks parked in a row out there,” said Steve Gambrill, the Harristown fire chief. “Our main focus was to contain the flames, stop the flames spreading, and then put out the fire.”

The fire call had come in at 12:46 a.m. Monday at 1145 Bear Road, a major depot for the Waste Management company.

Gambrill said at first the alarm call had mentioned perhaps a car on fire and somebody hearing explosions. But further updates suggested something much bigger awaited his firefighters and Gambrill raised the call status to a first alarm, which triggered support from Niantic, South Wheatland and Warrensburg firefighters.

“When we got there, I tell you, it was like a movie set because it was all flames and black smoke and it was everywhere,” said Gambrill.

“Some of the trucks’ hydraulic and diesel fuel tanks had been breached and they were dumping flammable liquids on the ground, and the flammable liquid was spreading under the uninvolved trucks, involving them.”

The chief said the cause of the fire remains under investigation but is thought to be of some kind of mechanical origin.

“It’s not suspicious,” he added.

He said one of his firefighters was taken to hospital and checked out after suffering some heat stress, but there were no other injuries and Gambrill said the operation went smoothly with crews on site until 3:18 a.m.

He said hazardous liquids spilled during the fire were contained by an on-site drainage system and expert teams had later been called in to deal with the clean up.

Gambrill said it was hard to say exactly what the cost of the damaged trucks would be, with some five destroyed and another three with various levels of damage. “I’ve heard prices for them of anywhere from $225,000 to $300,000, each,” he said.

Waste Management declined comment for this story.

Contact Tony Reid at (217) 421-7977. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyJReid


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