An excavator used to build a burn pit and clear land caught fire Wednesday afternoon at a Hinesville subdivision.
Dunham Enterprise of Ludowici was burning tree roots, stumps and other items after clearing a work site at Olmstead and Barrington Drive in Hinesville. According to Hinesville Fire Department Public Information Officer Kris Johanson, it appeared the excavator had a hydraulic leak that caused the excavator’s engine compartment to catch fire.
Johanson said an engine company and command vehicle responding to the call found the excavator 40 percent engulfed by fire. He said it appears the excavator operator was unaware of the leak.
“The operator spun the unit around to pick up another bucket of trash,” Johanson said. “Evidently, there was a busted hydraulic line … and there was pine straw on top of the excavator’s turn table … the heat caught the pine straw on fire which in turn caught the hydraulic fluid … and it caught the engine compartment on fire.”
Johanson said the operator, who was not identified, was not burned or injured.
Firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze and remained on site as the burn pit continued to flare up. Since the excavator was no longer operable, firefighters focused their attention on the pit to prevent further flare-ups and more equipment damage.
“Right now, we are just putting the pit fire out because he (the operator) doesn’t have a way to control the pit anymore with the excavator because he can’t move it,” Johanson said, adding the burn pit is like a deep hole. “It is dug in a specific way to burn this stuff up with little debris, basically a deep hole, so once we flood the hole we won’t need to worry about it after that.”
Capt. Chris Moss began the investigation shortly after the fire was extinguished.
Johanson said the excavator likely is worth between $100,000 and $150,000.