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Vehicles remain one of top causes of San Diego County wildfires, Cal Fire says

Posted: 3:10 PM, Aug 09, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-09 22:10:23Z

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Vehicles remain one of the top causes of wildfires in San Diego County, according to numbers released by Cal Fire.

Most recently, the Carr Fire that burned thousands of acres in Redding, Calif., was blamed on a flat tire leading to a car's wheel rim scraping on the asphalt.

In San Diego County, vehicles remain the top two causes of wildfires, officials said. This could be due to a faulty catalytic converter, metal chains, or even pulling over in a brushy, dry area on the side of the road.

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"People just need to be really cognizant and think about the fire danger risk when they’re driving and need to pull over,” Kendal Bortisser, CAL FIRE and County Fire captain, said. "Sometimes people are unaware that if they pull off the road and there’s grass, it could catch fire.  It could be a really bad move."

In 2016, local wildfires were caused by:

  • Vehicles (106)
  • Undetermined (103)
  • Other (58)
  • Electrical power (43)
  • Campfire (20)

In 2017, those numbers included:

  • Undetermined (117)
  • Vehicles (94)
  • Debris burning (55)
  • Other (53)
  • Equipment use (32)

Of those causes listed, Bortisser said catalytic converters often ignite fires. The converter can sometimes actually explode under a vehicle's engine, sending hot chucks of metal out without drivers even realizing it.

Overall, Cal Fire recommends drivers take precautions, like being aware of their surroundings, where they pull over, and to keep an eye on their vehicle's maintenance and upkeep.

And the precautions should be taken year-round.

"What we’re seeing now with the recent fires could potentially be the new normal. We’re moving into year-round fire season as a result of the conditions we are seeing. We are in a multi-year drought — we got a little rain last year, and now it seems we’re right back in it," Bortisser said.