Feb. 06--One of the City of Pottsville's 14 plow trucks burst into flames early Wednesday morning while clearing the streets of ice and snow, according to Daniel E. Kelly, the city superintendent of streets.
"It was fully involved," according to a supervisor at Schuylkill County Communications Center, Pottsville.
This is the second municipal plow truck destroyed by fires, which started this week while the trucks were in use.
The first occurred in Branch Township at 9:11 a.m. Monday on Llewellyn Road and North West Lawn, David Schultz, township road master, said Wednesday.
"We don't know if the transmission blew or not," Schultz said.
The truck was a pickup the township bought used a few years ago. Schultz wasn't certain of the make, model or year.
The township road crew was clearing away piles of snow dropped by an early morning storm, dubbed "Winter Storm Maximus" by The Weather Channel.
David Studlack, a part-time worker for the township, was the driver of the truck which caught on fire. The truck was totalled and the township is now down to two snow plows, Schultz said.
That fire scene was cleared by 9:31 a.m. Monday, according to a supervisor at the communications center.
In Pottsville at 3:21 a.m. Wednesday, a city snow plow burned at North Third Street and Morgan Avenue, according to the communications supervisor.
"We know it was a mechanical-type problem with the truck," Mike Messner, city assistant fire chief, who was in charge of the fire scene, said Wednesday.
The fire department isn't planning a further investigation, Messner said, but city officials will discuss the matter with their insurance carrier, according to City Administrator Thomas A. Palamar and Mayor James T. Muldowney.
Early Wednesday, "Winter Storm Nika," as it was dubbed by The Weather Channel, was covering the city's 48 miles of streets. At 2 a.m., 13 of the city's 14-man street road crew went to work. One was off sick, Kelly said.
All 14 trucks have plows, but only 13 have salt and anti-skid material spreaders. One, which was out of service Monday having its steering column repaired, was back in service Wednesday, Kelly said.
The plow truck that caught fire was not the one which was in service Monday, Kelly said.
Bob Benedict, a full-time street worker who has worked for the city more than 30 years, was behind the wheel of the 2004 Ford F550 4X4 Power Stroke V8 Turbo Diesel pick-up truck that caught fire, Kelly said.
That truck was fitted with a plow and a salt/anti-skid spreader, Kelly said.
"From what he explained to us, he was coming south on North Third Street. He turned onto Morgan Avenue. He saw a little bit of smoke. He called a couple of the other guys. They got up there with him right away. They emptied three fire extinguishers on it and they couldn't get it knocked down quick enough. In the meantime, they called 911," Kelly said.
The fire started in the engine compartment, but city officials are still exploring the exact cause. No one was injured, Kelly said.
"The engine compartment and passenger compartment were both totally involved. We used an inch and three-quarter hose line from one of the trucks to knock the fire down. It was out in five to 10 minutes," Messner said.
More than 10 firefighters were on scene. The scene was cleared by 4:09 a.m., according to a communications supervisor.
"It's probably electrical the way it sounded to me. Wow! You won't drive this any time soon," Muldowney said as he approached the charred remains of the Ford.
It's totalled, but the city has insurance, Kelly said.
"It's 10 years old. We bought that in 2004. We bought that brand new. That's when we bought a fleet of them, maybe six," Kelly said. Palamar estimated the city paid more than $40,000 for the vehicle back then, but he wasn't sure what the value of the vehicle would be now, 10 years later.
Kelly wasn't sure when the vehicle would be replaced, but he didn't think it would hinder the street crew's snow plowing efforts this winter.