Sacto 9-1-1
August 31, 2011
Vehicle maintenance helps prevent wildfires, officials say

A well-maintained vehicle can help prevent wildfires, according to state fire officials.

The Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's Amador-El Dorado Unit reports that several recent fires have been caused by vehicles, citing areas along Highway 50, Bass Lake Road, Gold Hill Road and Cameron Park Drive in El Dorado County. In Amador County, recent fire scars can be seen along highways 49 and 88 and Ridge Road, where vehicles caused strings of wildland fires.

"When a vehicle's engine is not well maintained, the exhaust system can become overtaxed, thereby allowing fuel to enter the exhaust system, which in turn overheats the catalytic convertor that melts and disintegrates," Scott Hogan, fire equipment manager for the Amador-El Dorado Unit said in a written statement. "Pieces of the catalytic converter exit the muffler at about 1,200 degrees F and can bounce onto the dried grass along the edge of road and start fires."

Wildland fires also can be result when tires that are improperly inflated blow out, shred into pieces and bounce off the road, coming to rest in dried vegetation, according to a Cal Fire news release.

Officials said a fire along Highway 50 in Cameron Park occurred when a transmission failed and dropped out of a vehicle that was being towed. Towing vehicles, boats, campers and jet skies places added stress on the vehicle's transmission, and when the transmission hasn't been properly maintained it can result in disaster, officials said.

California Highway Patrol officials advise people who have car trouble to find a safe place to stop, such as a paved shoulder or parking area. Motorists should avoid pulling off into the weeds, which could start a fire. Motorists also should be wary of riving long distances on a flat tire because the tire can detach from the rim and cause a fire.

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