GRAYSLAKE – Joe Humann, a landfill fueling truck driver, came to work Monday expecting just another day on the job. But as the day was ending, his truck caught fire.
“I could see the flames from under the vehicle,” said Humann, who has worked at the Waste Management Countryside Landfill in Grayslake for 10 years. “Within a minute of seeing it, I put [the truck] in gear and I jumped out and ran.”
Humann, who was not harmed, said the 1984 GMC quickly went up in flames after the engine backfired. He said the five-compartment vehicle holds 800 gallons of diesel to fuel other trucks on the landfills site.
Office Manager Kelvin Kirkman radioed the last handful of men working for the day after seeing what had happened and called the Grayslake Police Department.
Stephen Teschner, an on-site Grayslake officer, said officials received a report of a burning garbage truck about 4:40 p.m.
“I couldn’t tell you the last time something like this happened,” said Teschner, who has worked at the department for 11 years.
Humann went to get a water truck in an attempt to put out the fire after he escaped the burning vehicle.
“[A firefighter] said the water I was using to put out the fire wouldn’t work and I found that out pretty quick,” Humann said. “I didn’t think it would blow up because it is diesel fuel. But it went up so fast. I was amazed.”
Teschner said authorities blocked both the north and south entrance of state Route 83 and called in a Quad 2 County Fire Protection District foam response unit to hose down the fire, which took roughly 45 minutes for firefighters to stop. The foam unit responds to emergencies in the villages of Round Lake, Grayslake, Antioch, Lake Villa, Fox Lake and Newport.
One standby worker who watched as the foam unit put out the fire called the event a “freak incident” that rarely happens.
Humann said everything on the truck seemed to have been functioning OK. He said the fueling truck was the landfill’s only way to fuel other equipment.
Kirkman said finding another fueling truck for the landfill he oversees will not be a problem.
“After [Humann] realized he couldn’t save the truck, he got away,” Kirkman said. “Equipment can be replaced, but not human life.”