HARRISTOWN, Ill. (WCIA) — Eight garbage trucks went up in flames at the Waste Management facility in Harristown early Monday morning.
The Harristown Fire Department took an initial call around 12:45 a.m. about a large fire and explosions. While on the way, information led responding firefighters to initially think it was a structural fire. Additional firefighters from the Warrensburg, Niantic, and South Wheatland fire departments were called in to assist.
Steve Gambrill, Harristown’s Fire Chief, said eight trucks were damaged, five were destroyed. He added he had never responded to a fire this size before.
“Several of the hydraulic tanks and fuel tanks had breached, had flammable liquids underneath, spreading fire to the trucks that were in the line there,” Gambrill said.
He added that the trucks were being prepped for their next route services.
“They were full of fuel, luckily they had no garbage in them, they were all empty so we didn’t have to worry about garbage inside the trucks,” he said.
If there was garbage in them, Gambrill said it would’ve been an extra challenge.
Evelyn Deverell, Harristown’s mayor, said she first heard about the fire through Facebook.
“It was much larger than I would’ve anticipated. I didn’t realize it was quite as bad as it was,” she said.
She was thankful for the department’s fast response.
“Our fire department is excellent. They always do a great job, even on rescue calls,” Deverell said.
Lisa Disbrow with Waste Management said in a statement, “We were able to transfer collection vehicles from our other locations to Decatur allowing the team to service our customers as scheduled yesterday. We appreciate the quick response by the local volunteer fire departments that responded to this incident.”
Deverell said she noticed the service right away during the day on Tuesday.
“I saw three Waste Management trucks so it looks like they’re running their normal routes,” she said.
Gambrill said the trucks, diesel fuel and hydraulic fluid were burning at extreme heat and there was dense black smoke. Firefighters initiated a fire attack and a water shuttle maintained the water supply while a retention pond contained the runoff. Macon County Emergency Management made all necessary notifications to the State EPA and Waste Management contacted a cleanup company to help with the runoff.
One firefighter was taken to the hospital for heat stress, but was treated and released.
No word yet on how much it cost, or the timeline to replace the trucks.
The cause is currently unknown, but is not believed to be suspicious. The Office of the State Fire Marshal is assisting in the investigation.
All units were on site until around 3:20 a.m. The facility is located at Bear Road in Harristown.