Trash truck's gas cylinders explode on city's northeast side

Photos courtesy IFD
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The Indianapolis Fire Department is investigating what caused a Republic trash truck carrying compressed natural gas cylinders to explode in the parking lot of Ace Hardware in the 8500 block of Westfield Boulevard Tuesday morning.

One of the tanks flew across Westfield Boulevard and hit a dry cleaning business in the strip mall, IFD spokesperson Rita Reith said. One firefighter was struck in the head by debris, but his injury was minor. The driver of the truck was not injured.

It happened just before 6:00 am. Five businesses were damaged, along with other vehicles.

Indianapolis firefighters had to dodge exploding gas cylinders when they arrived at the scene of the truck fire. According to the driver, he'd just picked up the trash at ACE Hardware when he noticed fire coming from the back of his truck. 

Although it's protocol for the driver to drop the trash load during a fire, the driver was worried about nearby power lines and was unable to drop it so firefighters could put it out. The fire grew and additional crews were called in.

At that point, the first of five tanks that sit atop the truck exploded and firefighters ran for cover. Crews set up aerial operations. It took about an hour to get it under control.

None of the affected businesses were open at time.

Marion County Public Health was called to the scene for run off and unidentified green substance which was later determined to be hydraulic fluid. The runoff was contained by fire crews.

The carbon fiber cylinders were holding 5 - 100 lb compressed natural gas. The impact of the explosion sent the tanks 50 feet to a quarter of a mile, with one landing in the front yard of Northview Middle School. No students were at school yet, and the school opened on time. One of the exploding tanks struck a nearby fence, while another landed in the parking lot of the Nora Shops. Debris struck the front window of a dry cleaners and also damaged a van in the Kroger parking lot. Debris also struck a firefighter in the helmet, knocking him into the bushes.