New Jersey Garbage truck explosion
13 Mar 2018

Explosions during interventions involving compressed gas powered vehicles


Video (Above) Raw footage of LNG powered garbage truck exploding in Hamilton, New Jersey.

Video: (Below) a Hamilton, NJ resident tells the story of what she experienced during the blast.

Unlike vehicles powered by gasoline and diesel, which can burn with a rapid fire development - but essentially never technically detonate - vehicles powered by LPG, LNG and LBG can explode with a violent force capable of killing humans and destroying property more than a kilometer (1,6 miles) away from the blast.


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Tore ErikssonBy Tore Eriksson / President of CTIF International Association of Fire Services

The CTIF Commission for Extrication & New Technology has been working hard in recent years attempting to address the particular problems connected with New Vehicles. Many of the problems we are facing are due to the type of fuel, and other hazardous materials inside the vehicles.

CTIF International Association of Fire Services is very active in an ISO project for standardization of information and symbols for Fire Services and other First Responders involved in rescue and extrication during vehicle interventions. We are also very concerned with the design and standardization of Intervention Response Guidelines.

In this article we will outline a few incidents involving LNG powered vehicles where the intervention did not go as expected.

Below, at the end of this article, you will also be able to access a free training manual especially designed for learning interventions on New Vehicle types, so that you learn to avoid these potentially devastating explosions.



Garbage truck


Garbage truck explosion in Indianapolis

In 2015, the Indianapolis Fire Department in the US responded to an incident where the CND tanks exploded.

One cylinder was thrown 1,2 kilometers from the explosion site, landing in a school yard.

Against normal procedure for fires involving in such vehicles, the driver was unable to “dump” the burning debris. This resulted in a the heat build- up directly under the cylinders.

Firefighters were hit by debris from the explosion but luckily suffered only relatively minor injuries.

A contributing factor was a protective cover over the tanks. The cover likely hindered cooling the tanks and may have inadvertently caused the pressure reducing devices ( PRD ) to be cooled by the water stream and prevented their activation.

It is speculated the water spray applied may have kept the PRDs below their intended trigger temperature.


Lessons Learned:

From a tactical perspective, if a vehicle is known to be equipped with CNG cylinders and is engulfed in fire, firefighters should maintain a safe perimeter and not approach the vehicle, unless there is a significant life hazard , i.e. let the vehicle burn.

A minimum evacuation radius of 300 feet (90 meters) should be maintained in such incident types.

As experienced in this event, a tank landed approximately 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) away.

Do not approach from either the front or the side of the vehicle. If necessary, approach a CNG vehicle fire from a 45° angle.

If the PRD(s) have activated, do not apply water spray, but rather allow the fire to burn.


Compressed gas powered car exploded in Sweden

Kramfors Explosion

A car powered by compressed gas exploded during a fire in the municipality of Kramfors, Sweden on November 16, 2016.

The Fire Services of the Höga Kusten (High Coast) received a call about a car fire in the village of Ry. A fire had started in the vehicle, and eventually it exploded.

The crew stepped back and let the vehicle burn out before they attempted any further intervention, according to chief Mikael Lund at the Höga Kusten Fire Service.

The vehicle was situated in a remote area where there was no risk of the fire spreading, and there were no injuries to people.


A bus powered by compressed gas exploded in Gothenburg

Compressed gas bus explosion in Gothenburg, Sweden


A bus traveled through a tunnel in Gothenburg, Sweden, on July 12 - 2016, when a fire broke out just after the bus exited the tunnel.

The 15 passengers managed to get out of the vehicle. However, during the intervention by the local fire service, the bus exploded, and two firefighters were injured.


Garbage truck exploded in New Jersey

Hamilton garbage truck explosion


On January 26, 2016, a garbage truck started burning on a street in Hamilton, New Jersey (US). The truck exploded and the blast was so powerful it blew out a hole in a nearby building.

One of the four LNG tanks on the vehicle exploded in the fire and was catapulted onto the front lawn of local resident Dorris Pattley´s home on Fitzrandolph Street, right next to Lalor Street.

Hamilton firefighters Leonard Pope and Steve Lykes had just evacuated Pattley from the back side of her house, when the garbage truck exploded.

The explosion also threw debris inside another house across the street and tore up a hole in the roof.

Window panes on two other nearby buildings were also damaged.


Download the free Emergency Response Manual for Vehicles:


Click here to see the training material Emergency Response on vehicles. You will find intervention cards for more than 1500 vehicles. The Emergency Respons Manual for Vehicles can be accessed in our Library section at CTIF.org.
Click here to see the training material Emergency Response on vehicles. The manual can be accessed in the Resources section at CTIF.org.

CTIF International Association of Fire Services would like to spread awareness and knowledge about the particular risks that are associated with many new vehicle types.

CTIF NEWS encourages the sharing of lessons learned, in public media like CTIF.org.

The courage to stand up and tell others what you have learned during an invention that didn´t go as planned can help others in a similar situation, and could potentially save lives, both among firefighters and civilians.

Tore Eriksson, CTIF President







Article published and adapted for the Internet by Bjorn Ulfsson / CTIF NEWS. This article was originally published in a newsletter for CTIF Sweden in 2016