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Waste Management driver turns training into action

An Oregon man is alive and well today, in part because Waste Management driver Jerry Richards got important safety training.

Richards was on his way back to the WM Forest Grove Transfer Station late last month after a day of hauling residential yard debris when he saw flames shooting from under the van traveling ahead of him. He sounded his horn, signaled to the driver to pull over and, in minutes, had secured his truck and was aiming his fire extinguisher at the van.

Richards and the rest of Waste Management’s Forest Grove drivers have been certified by Waste Watch, a nationally acclaimed safety program that actually started in Forest Grove 12 years ago.

Now in more than 100 communities, the program trains Waste Management drivers to look and listen for suspicious activities and emergency situations, and then report observations to public safety and law enforcement agencies.

Richards’ quick action inspired Hillsboro resident LaDonna Wolfe, who witnessed the incident, to write to Waste Management.

“Out of nowhere, the van in front of the truck caught fire,” Wolfe wrote in her letter. “I have never seen a fire like this. It was truly terrifying as the flames were near the gas tank.

“Without hesitation, your driver pulled up right behind him on the side of the highway and jumped out immediately to help. Within seconds, he had a fire extinguisher in hand and was working to put out the fire and making sure the driver got out.

“How that van kept from exploding is a miracle.

“I am deeply moved and grateful for the quick and selfless action of your worker today. He 110 percent prevented what could have been a tragic scene from happening.  I can only imagine how their hearts must have been racing, as mine certainly was.  I hope and trust the man whose life was saved knows he has guardian angels in the form of your Waste Management driver.”

Jackie Lang is a senior communications manager for Waste Management.