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City-parish issues warning after third garbage truck destroyed by fire

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BATON ROUGE - In the first six months of 2020, East Baton Rouge Parish has tallied four garbage truck fires with three vehicles being destroyed, totaling nearly $1 million in damage.

The latest inferno happened Saturday as a Republic Services garbage truck was on its weekly route. Doorbell video captured the moments a ball of fire engulfed the truck.

"The driver had enough time to stop the truck, put it in park, and jump out," Richard Speer, Director of Environmental Services said.

City-parish officials say all four fires are a result of what residents are putting in their trash cans.

"Two caused by pool chemicals and one by a compressed tank, like a butane tank," Speer said.

Saturday's fire started after a butane tank exploded when the truck's compactor pierced it. However, Speer says it's not just liquids that pose a threat.

"They'll put a bag of grass in their carts and the issue with that is it's hot, the sun's out, the vegetation is rotting, and getting heat naturally," Speer said. "But in that black cart, they're getting really hot."

Speer says three other garbage trucks were destroyed by fire in 2019. In addition to putting drivers and those nearby at risk, it's an expensive loss to Republic's fleet that takes time to replace.

"These are $300,00 vehicles," Speer said. "And it takes 12 months, when they order it, to be delivered."

Right now, the loss of three trucks isn't affecting trash pickups or Republic's efficiency, but if more trucks are destroyed, it very well could, Speer says. "That's why officials are pleading with homeowners to pay attention to what they're throwing away heading into summer.

Speer says anything containing chemicals should be thoroughly cleaned before being thrown away. Bags with leaves and grass shouldn't go in the trashcan but rather placed on the curb. No gas tanks should be left for garbage trucks to pick up.

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