It is believed a small gas canisters had reignited a smouldering barbecue that had been put out in a commercial waste bin near the city centre, setting the waste load ablaze.
The council crew acted swiftly to contain the fire by operating the lorry’s compacting mechanism, cutting off air to the flames.
They then secured the lorry at the bottom of South Street and phoned the fire service, who put the fire out before escorting the crew and their vehicle back to the depot.
Exeter’s Waste, Recycling and Fleet Manager, Craig Daysh, was full of praise for the crew.
‘Their speedy response saved the day. Thanks to them, no-one was injured and the vehicle was undamaged apart from a few scorch-marks. It could have been so much worse,’ he said.
Mr Daysh added: ‘It should go without saying that disposable barbecues need to be fully extinguished and cold before being disposed of, but we are seeing more and more of these small metal gas cylinders and canisters in household and commercial waste bins.
‘Camping gas and other pressurised gas canisters are classed as hazardous waste and must either be taken to a recycling centre or given to an appropriate hazardous waste agent for safe disposal.’
Following the fire, the crew were able to resume their round using the same vehicle.