October 7, 2022

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Cars top ignition source for Oregon summer wildfires

2 min read

Make sure your summer memories don’t include starting a wildfire.

Over 70 percent of wildfires are caused by people, according to Oregon Department of Transportation and Keep Oregon Green. And in Oregon last year, cars were the number one source of wildfires during the summer months.

“We know the devastating impact that wildfires have on the roads and bridges that are critical for our communities to thrive,” said Mac Lynde, ODOT’s Delivery and Operations Division Administrator. “When traveling Oregon’s highways, please do your part to prevent wildfires.”

With persistent and deepening drought conditions, we’re all becoming more aware of the potential wildfire dangers our vehicles pose. And that means we all need to remember the lessons about how to make sure our vehicles don’t cause devastating wildfires.

Here are tips for making sure you and your vehicle don’t start a fire.

  • Stay on hardened surfaces when pulling off the road. Avoid dry grass that might come in contact with your vehicle’s hot exhaust system or catalytic converter.
  • Never, ever toss a lit cigarette or ANY burning materials from your vehicle.
  • Carry a fire extinguisher with you and know how to use it. You may save lives by putting out a small fire before it turns huge.
  • Maintain proper tire pressure. Driving on rims will throw off sparks.
  • Secure tow chains and make sure they aren’t dragging. That can cause sparks.
  • Maintain your exhaust system. A worn-out catalytic converter can cast off extremely hot pieces of material into dry roadside grass and brush.
  • If you see something, say something. Warn others of the dangers of behaving carelessly with fireworks or other flammables.
  • Stay on the road. Off-road driving is prohibited in most areas during fire season.
  • Be prepared. Keep a cell phone, water, a shovel and a fire extinguisher with you in case a fire starts.
  • Service your vehicle regularly by a trained mechanic. Heat and electrical sparks coming into contact with leaking flammable car fluids can easily start a fire.

The wildfire risk gradually increases as grasses cure, forests dry out and winds give accidental sparks or car fires the ability to spread quickly.

Remember, we all have a role in preventing wildfires in Oregon, especially as extended drought conditions create a greater window of opportunity for roadside ignitions.

All of us, and our cars, need to be extra careful.

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