Hot mail? Fire consumes postal delivery truck

A Lovell Post Office employee experienced a case of hot mail Saturday when the delivery truck he was driving burst into flames while parked during his route in the northeast part of town.

Lovell police officer Matt Koritnik (center) and Lovell Postmaster Victor Cordes (right) check to see what can be recovered from the U.S. Postal Service delivery truck that burned Saturday morning in Lovell. Power steering fluid ignited, engulfing the truck in flames.

Carrier Craig Finley had stopped his USPS delivery van at Oregon and Second just before 11 a.m. to make a walking delivery route, and when he returned to the truck, it was smoking from the engine compartment. Smoke was pouring out from the radiator and windshield vents, and as soon as he called in the event, burning globs of perhaps plastic were dropping onto the street.

The truck quickly become engulfed in flames, Finley said, as the fire moved from the engine compartment rearward into the cab, where, contained momentarily by the delivery tray that sits to the left of the driver (delivery vans have the steering wheel on the right), the fire burst out the door and continued to spread, destroying the tray and the divider between the cab and the rear storage area. The fire burned into the back compartment, as well, until the Lovell Volunteer Fire Dept. arrived and quickly doused the flames.

Luckily, most of the first class mail (letters) was in the far rear of the truck and, though scorched on top, was delivered. Most of the losses came in the form of magazines, catalogues and newspapers, as well as packages. About a dozen packages were lost, Finley estimated.

Postmaster Victor Cordes was coaching a Little League Baseball at the nearby Northeast Little League Complex when he got the call and quickly raced to the scene. He said people who had outgoing mail to be picked up in the part of town north of Main Street and west of Oregon need to know that their letters may have been lost. Mail not delivered that day including the scorched letters and destroyed magazines, catalogues and the like was to go to addresses north of Main and from Oregon east to Quebec.

Cordes said the post office has some package contents that may be salvageable including an order from People can come to the office and identify the contents.

Cordes said the fire marshal has determined that the fire started in the left part of the engine compartment and was likely caused by leaking power steering fluid that ignited. He said the vehicle was a Postal Service LLV (long life vehicle), a 1998 Chevy S-10 with a Grumman body.

LVFD Captain Bob Mangus said the fire department was called at 11:04 a.m. and had the fire extinguished in three or four minutes after arrival.

By David Peck