A fire churned inside a loaded garbage truck Wednesday afternoon before it was dumped along U.S. Highway 377 North as firefighters battled the stinky blaze.

The driver said he saw smoke as the dumpster was lifted above the cab, but it was already too late and the fiery load was added to the truck.

Fire charred the inside and outside of the truck less than three minutes after its last stop on a commercial garbage route, the driver told firefighters.

The IESI employee immediately pulled to a safe area away from structures and vegetation, and called 911.

When firefighters arrived on scene, they instructed him to dump the flaming filth on the highway.

"We were lucky," said IESI District Manager Waylon Wolfe. "If a fire ever reaches the hydraulic valves and pumps, the vehicle would have been totaled."

It is difficult for officials to confirm what caused the fire, but speculated it could have been a cigarette tossed into the metal dumpster.

"We were happy the fire department got there as quick as they did," Wolfe said. "We would have lost the truck if it weren't for them showing up quickly."