A garbage truck driver made a wise decision to dump his burning load of garbage in the parking lot at a town park Wednesday afternoon on the northwest side of Chino Valley, said both fire and sheriff personnel.
Responding personnel from Chino Fire and Yavapai County Sheriff's Office said Patriot Disposal driver, Richard Heinen, chose a safe place in the parking lot of the Quail Ridge Park to dump his 20-foot-by-20-foot burning load of garbage at about 3:30 p.m. Strong winds were blowing.
"He'd tried to compact the load down to suffocate the fire, like they're supposed to, but that didn't work. So, he had to get it out of the truck," said YCSO's John VanderHoven. "This is a good, open area, and there's a fire hydrant just over there (on the residential street next to the park)."
Homes line only the north side of the park, and open fields surround the remaining three sides of the park. To the east of the park and up a hill is Mingus Springs Charter School. At the park, youth baseball practice was about to start at the park's ball fields, where a few players had arrived.
Heinen, the driver, who used to work for the Town of Chino Valley and knows the area, said he looked for an open area to dump his burning load.
"I thought, 'What's around here?' and remembered the park," he said. By the time he dumped out the garbage, flames reached about 15 feet high. The burning garbage included lots of yard debris, wood shavings, residential garbage, and even a broken toilet.
VanderHoven said there's no way to tell what started the fire. "It could have been anything - an aerosol can, anything," he said.
Fire personnel worked for about 1 1/2 hours to distinguish flames, then used a backhoe to place the pile into a large rented portable dumpster.
We drove home to see the large fire fully engaged. What a wonderful decision of the driver to get that load in such a perfect spot for the firefighters to attack it. I am just really so glad that the driver did not get hurt. Good job everyone!