By Michael Wilson
Columbus (IN) firefighters were called to a vehicle fire yesterday at the Columbus City Garage complex. At 5:03 p.m., crews were dispatched to 2250 Kreutzer Drive after a city employee discovered a trash packer truck was on fire in the parking lot. The employee told firefighters that she went inside the garage to retrieve a fire extinguisher and when she came out, the flames were nearing the fuel tank of the truck. The employee attempted to extinguish the fire, but the progress of the fire made the attempt unsuccessful.
Firefighters arrived on the scene within four minutes and found a total of four trucks parked in a row. Upon arrival, firefighters relayed that two of the four trucks were fully involved. Firefighters advanced hoselines to extinguish the flames.
As the engine company attempted to extinguish both vehicles, the company officer, Lieutenant Russ Dixon, used his communications radio to relay that the flames were in direct contact with the fuel tank of the initial packer unit involved. The incident commander, Battalion Chief Mike Compton, immediately called for additional engine crews to respond the scene. Lt. Dixon relayed to the incident commander that he was pulling his crew out and taking a defensive position.
Within minutes of backing the crews away from the trucks, a fuel tank exploded, causing a third packer truck to catch fire. An additional engine company as well as a truck company arrived on the scene to apply additional water streams on the fire. Crews had the fire extinguished within 20 minutes. All three trucks sustained significant damage; the fourth truck was not damaged.
According to Battalion Chief Mike Compton, the damage to the vehicles is estimated at $850,000 for total loss. Battalion Chief Compton stated the damage estimation may be lower depending upon the ability to salvage the beds of the packer trucks.
Bryan Burton, Director of the City Garage, told firefighters that the packer unit that caught fire had been operating without issues. Mr. Burton stated that the truck was parked in the garage lot after finishing its scheduled route for the day. Bryan Burton estimated that this was between 3:30 and 3:45 pm. Burton said that there would not be any delay in services to the city.
In addition to the fire, crews also dealt with a hazardous materials spill. Firefighters and city garage personnel utilized special equipment to contain the runoff of fuel and contaminated water. According to Bryan Burton, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management is scheduled to inspect the site today.
Columbus Fire Investigators worked at the scene to determine a cause. Investigators found that the fire had burned the engine compartment’s contents to the point of making a determination of cause difficult. The cause of fire has been ruled undetermined at this time.
No injuries were reported at the scene. Columbus Police, Columbus Regional Health EMS, and City of Columbus Garage assisted at the scene.