Investigators in Hamilton Township, N.J., have determined that a faulty battery is to blame for starting the fire that caused a compressed natural gas (CNG)-powered garbage truck to erupt in flames on Jan. 26, according to Hamilton Police Capt. James Stevens.
“It appears to be an electric fire that then spread to the area where the CNG cylinders are stored,” Stevens told NGT News. “The fire began in the battery box before spreading under the CNG cylinders.” He went on to say that there was too much damage to determine the exact cause of the fire, but investigators are confident that it began in the battery box area.
Mercer County arson investigators and Hamilton police detectives inspected the vehicle and interviewed the two garbage truck operators. According to the operators, the battery compartment began smoking. They tried and failed to extinguish the flames before putting in a call to 911.
Nobody was injured, though one home was heavily damaged when one of the truck’s CNG tanks was launched into the dining room of the residence. Three other nearby homes were damaged, as well.
By the time fire crews had arrived, the fire had spread beneath one of the truck’s CNG fuel tanks. As the fire intensified, the tank’s pressure relief device activated, venting fuel into the air. The fuel ignited shortly thereafter, erupting in a fireball and launching the CNG tank into the dining room of Doris Pattley. She had moved to the back of the house just moments earlier.
Hamilton Township has used CNG garbage trucks operated by Central Jersey Waste and Recycling since 2008.