A small fire broke out at approximately 7 p.m. Wednesday at Waste Connections, apparently caused by a chemical reaction in a pile of trash workers had recently dumped at the site. Duncan Fire Chief Dayton Burnside said Oakridge Volunteer Fire Department (OVFD) was first on the scene and reacted quickly to extinguish the flaming trash heap. “They were first on scene, we just got a call to help them with a fire in Waste Connections’ main building,” Burnside said. “[The fire] was in the trash piles — it was all compacted up, the structure was saved but all [of] the contents of the pile was gone, it was put out in about 45 minutes.”
According to Jeff Bruehl, an officer for OVFD, firefighters weren’t alerted to the blaze in the traditional way with a call — in fact, they saw the flames themselves. “— We actually never got the call, we called them, we saw smoke coming from the building because we were next door working on a fire truck,” said Bruehl. “Then, somewhere in between that time and when we got there, two or three other people had called. When we got there, [the fire] was just in the transfer station — they had dumped, looked like a pile of mattresses and bedding and — it was burning in that section. — The sprinkler system activated about the same time we got there and was helping us put it out.”
Bruehl said though the exact cause of the blaze hasn’t been determined, it’s likely that the fire was caused by a chemical reaction or some sort of discarded material that shouldn’t have been thrown in a dumpster to begin with.
“Most likely, it was discarded either when they loaded it or unloaded it, [it could be] friction or a chemical reaction, some kind of chemicals in it. I mean, it’s trash, so it’s kind of hard to pinpoint it. We looked at all of the different items in the trash, but we couldn’t find any particular items. It could have been anything from a cigarette discarded to a chemical reaction from something.”
Minimal damage was caused by the fire, according to Bruehl, and no equipment was harmed, but Bruehl did have some tips for the community about what should and shouldn’t be thrown into a trash receptacle. Advice he hopes can help prevent fires like these from happening in the future.
“— Be careful what you throw away, no chemicals — are supposed to be put in the trash dumpsters,” he said. “—It can cause chemical reactions. Paint thinner, oil, bleach even. — A lot of people don’t know it, but [a] bleach and motor oil combination can, it takes an hour or two, it gets hotter and hotter and then bursts into flames if they get mixed together. — An empty bleach bottle still has some residue in it and the right combinations, temperature and the wind — can set off a chemical reaction.”