News

One hot load for the garbageman

By MIKE HALLIDAY

The Mirror

Sacajawea Middle School had an unexpected guest last Friday morning: A smoking garbage truck.

"It's a little unusual," said principal Brenda McBrayer.

At about 11:30 a.m., a driver with Waste Management noticed smoke coming from the back of the truck after picking up garbage from a residential area. He pulled into the parking lot at the middle school and dumped the truck's contents, according to Federal Way Fire Department officials.

McBrayer said no one at school suffered adverse affects, and teachers made sure students didn't get near the truck.

The driver wasn't injured and the truck wasn't significantly damaged.

Students in PE classes noticed the truck pull in and the smoke coming from it, McBrayer said. When the truck's load was dumped onto the parking lot, whatever was smoldering caught fire.

Firefighters were called to the scene, quickly put the blaze out and started spreading the refuse to make sure all of the burning material was out. A backhoe was going to help spread the garbage, said Monica Colby, a spokeswoman for the Fire Department.

Waste Management has a policy that drivers dump a load on fire in an open, paved area, said Ben Whitley, district manager for the company.

School parking lots aren't the usual site, but in this case the driver didn't have anywhere else to go and it was safer than placing the garbage in the street, Whitley said.

Sometimes drivers also compact the garbage while firefighters are en route to squeeze out as much oxygen as possible, diminishing the fire, he said.

Most fires like this are the result of a homeowner putting still-hot ashes from a fireplace or barbecue into their garbage, according to Whitley. While a garbage truck fire hasn't happened in about five years, he said they sometimes ruin the truck because the containers operate on hydraulic systems and those are often damaged by the fire and the trash can't be dumped.

After fire officials declared the garbage in last Friday's incident wasn't a threat, Waste Management put it in a metal box and took it away, Whitley said.

What exactly caused the fire is unknown, and it would be hard to know who was responsible, Colby said.

Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565, mhalliday@fedwaymirror.com

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