Approximately around 12:05 pm Monday afternoon the contents inside of a Santa Monica City garbage truck caught on fire in the back of the truck where the trash is, spreading quickly. The driver notified the city's 911 system about the fire and the Santa Monica Fire Department responded to the fire, the fire department responded to the scene with an engine company. Upon the engine's arrival, the contents inside of the truck were in the middle of the street, according to the Captain of Engine 5. The driver did this in line with protocol to prevent the diesel-fueled truck from catching fire. It took approximately 15 minutes for 4 firefighters to knock down the fire. Fire crews were on scene for about 2 hours to help clean up the street as well as to put out any hotspots. Vehicle traffic was shut down in the area until the debris in the roadway was cleared and deemed safe for vehicles to travel through the area. Around 2:15 in the afternoon the area was cleared and opened to vehicle traffic. The Santa Monica Fire Department cleared the scene around 1:50 pm.
The fire didn't spread rapidly throughout the pile, it seemed to be isolated to one area of the pile but firefighters sprayed water on the entire pile to ensure that it doesn't reignite or that the fire spreads to another area. This incident wasn't as large scale as the garbage truck fire from October that occurred in downtown Santa Monica.
Resource Recovery & Recycling and Wastewater Management assisted in responding to the incident to help clear up the trash and ensure that it was cleared up from the sidewalk and roadway. Resource Recovery & Recycling staff brought a loader machine to spread out the smoldering material so that Santa Monica Fire could ensure that fire was extinguished across the entire pile of garbage as well as a dumpster to remove the waste and a street sweeper was arranged to conduct a final clean up of the area.
Although these incidents are rare, the Fire Department alongside the Resource Recover & Recycling and Wastewater Management is prepared to handle an incident like this. The two departments had to work alongside to ensure that the fire is entirely out throughout the pile to ensure that another fire doesn't ignite while transporting the garbage to a facility or while it's sitting inside of the facility. They also work together in clearing the trash from the roadway and sidewalk. The cleanup usually takes around 2 hours.
In a statement given to us through email by Fire Captain Patrick Nulty, a spokesman for the Santa Monica Fire Department stated that
“Our typical manner for addressing these incidents is to dump the contents out of the truck away from any exposures so Firefighters can thoroughly suppress and overhaul the fire. This also minimizes damage to the vehicle. Once the fire has been extinguished, Public Works will load the garbage onto another truck and haul it away.”
An overhaul is when firefighters ensure that the fire is completely out which includes hotspots as well as any cleanup efforts that may need to be done.
A nearby resident has said that a neighbor threw burning charcoal in the garbage moments before the trash truck came to pick it up. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.