Recycling truck catches fire, driver dumps tons of burning debris onto parked cars

Neighbors described chaotic scene
Posted at 7:03 PM, Nov 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-25 23:20:43-05

People who live on 54th Avenue West in Bradenton woke up to an inferno of recyclables burning in the middle of their street.

“Twenty foot freaking flames,” Joelle Koester said.  “When I came out and seen this truck, flames are going up there, and flames are going there.  I said 'oh my God the cars gonna blow hurry and up and get him out.”

Koester and another witness Jeff Tull said they saw the Waste Pro recycling truck smoking at the end of their street.  Tull grabbed his camera and started taking video as he called 911.  

“Get out of there,” Tull screamed to the driver who was standing on top of the burning truck trying to put out the flames.

Tull said he counted seven explosions.  “It was ammo going off.  I know those were gunshots,” Tull said.  

On the phone to 911 he ran towards the danger and started evacuating his neighbors.

“It's no joke the flames went up to the wires in between the duplexes the side of the house,” Koester said.  “My neighbor is disabled if firefighters didn’t get here so fast he wouldn’t have gotten out.”

The Monday morning fire damaged two cars and completely destroyed a third.  The owners of those cars were too upset to comment on what happened.

ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska spoke to Sean Jennings the District Manager for Waste Pro in Sarasota/Bradenton.  Jennings said the driver did everything right, and was in a bad situation.

Jennings said protocol is to eject the load to protect the truck.  Jennings said they don’t know the exact cause of the fire, but believe, someone placed flammable liquids or chemicals in with their recycling that ignited the blaze.

“People need to be more careful,” Jennings said.  “Check your lids, only put recyclables in that are approved.”

People who live in the Bradenton neighborhood said they are grateful no one was hurt.  They are questioning whether the driver should’ve followed protocols or his own common sense.

“I think it (protocol) needs to be changed first of all,” Tull said.  “This guy was not safe standing on top of that truck with flames coming out of the top of it, this guy using a fire extinguisher putting out a garbage truck, really? That's not what you do.  He put all of our families, kids, pets everything in jeopardy.  Let's save the truck.   OK.  So, that's the reason why they put that in their protocol.”