Garbage truck catches fire near Green Lake

A Twitter photo shows a plume of smoke rising from a garbage truck that caught fire near Green Lake.

The Seattle Fire Department dispatch log reported a car fire at 9:30 a.m. on 6900 East Green Lake Way.

Len Davis had just dropped off his son at soccer camp at Green Lake and was walking back to his car when he saw the black smoke.

Davis is a filmmaker so he grabbed his camera and took video of the fire.

"It was just a raging trash truck fire, enormous flames and thick dark smoke," said Davis.

The driver of the Waste Management garbage truck was moving a dumpster when his truck caught fire. Flames engulfed the front of the truck. Firefighters used foam to put out the flames. The truck runs on natural gas so they were working quickly to get the fire out.

Dean Graziono works nearby and said he could feel the heat. "Never seen anything like that, no, and so close to all these trees and buildings. I think we got really lucky here," said Graziano.

Investigators determined it was an engine fire but are still working to determine how it started.  Waste Management said an engine fire is very unusual. Every truck undergoes routine maintenance and is inspected every day.  Drivers are trained to respond to emergencies. The company wants to learn more about how the fire started to make sure it doesn't happen again. At first, Waste Management thought used charcoal briquettes could have started the fire. They've already had several incidents this year in which smoldering coals have set the garbage on fire. Drivers are trained to dump out the burning garbage.

A Republic recycling truck caught fire and had to dump burning garbage in a Bellevue neighborhood last June. That fire was traced back to coals someone put in their recycling bin.

Waste Management said residents can throw out charcoal in their garbage cans but it can take days before it is safe to do so. It can take several days for the coals to cool down and they should never be put in recycling. The company is asking residents to be very careful about what they throw away, since it impacts driver safety.

As for Monday's engine fire, "We need to understand what happened in this situation so we can make sure it doesn't happen again," said Jackie J. Lang, of Waste Management.

KIRO-7 asked if the natural gas truck was at risk of exploding, and Lang said, "Our CNG trucks come with dual safety systems to avoid an explosion. First, our driver can manually shut off special valves to isolate the gas. Second, the trucks have heat detectors that trigger a safe venting procedure. When the temperature spikes, the truck will vent natural gas straight up into the air."