Days after fireworks rang in the New Year, a blaze of a different sort lit up the night sky in Scottsdale on Jan. 3.
A city garbage truck caught fire at around 3 a.m. at City of Scottsdale’s North Corporate Yard, a maintenance facility for the city’s fleet vehicles located near 90th Street and Loop 101.
A police officer who stopped at the facility to refuel his patrol vehicle first noticed the fire and reported it, city spokeswoman Erin Walsh said.
Firefighters arrived on scene at approximately 3:35 a.m. and it took over two hours to extinguish the fire, Scottsdale Deputy Chief Ben Hoster said.
Scottsdale and Phoenix fire departments responded to the call and found six garbage trucks that run on compressed natural gas on fire.
A total of six engines responded to the blaze.
Before it could be put out, the fire damaged or destroyed 12 trucks, causing an estimated $3 million in damages.
Deputy Chief Kerry Swick said investigators believe the fire started in the battery compartment of one of the trucks.
“The exact cause is unknown but foul play is not suspected,” Walsh, the city spokeswoman, said.
Scottsdale’s North Corporate Yard is home to a sizable fleet of natural gas-powered vehicles.
After arriving on scene on Jan. 3, fire fighters secured the main gas line and the department’s Hazardous Materials team later completed air monitoring and confirmed there were no leaks from any tanks on the trash trucks, according to the department.
According to a City Council memo, 55 percent of the city’s trash trucks ran on compressed natural gas, or CNG, in 2019 and the city planned to increase that to 75 percent over the next few years.
As of June 2019, the city’s solid waste department operated 23 total CNG-powered garbage trucks.
City documents show the city has been playing catch up to ensure it can maintain its growing CNG fleet on site at the North Corp Yard.
City Council memos and budget documents show the city has spent significant money in recent years to outfit the facility for CNG maintenance.
That includes a $1.6 million-project to bring the city’s fleet shop into compliance with building codes to allow for the service and maintenance of CNG vehicles.
According to a City Council memo, the project will “increase air exchanges within the building, remove overhead heaters and change light fixtures to prevent any source of sparking or ignition of the CNG…”
Walsh said the CNG compliance project was not connected to the fire.
“The fire occurred outdoors, the CNG compliance work is inside the shop and was not in any way connected to the fire,” she said. “The city does service CNG vehicles on site and has always followed proper safety protocols to do so.”
The city was able to continue trash service for residents with no disruption thanks to help from other Valley cities, including Peoria, which loaned 10 trash trucks to Scottsdale last weekend.
Walsh said service to 50 commercial customers was delayed by one day.
“Scottsdale Solid Waste thanks the cities of Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe and Peoria for providing loaner vehicles that are helping the city continue to serve its customers,” she said.