Local News

Jul 8, 2014 10:15 PM by LiLi Tan, KSBY News

Brush fires come with $50,000+ fine

Investigators have released the cause of a series of brush fires in San Luis Obispo and Monterey Counties on Monday: an overloaded trailer.

"He made a trail. They were just dropping fire along the side of the road with an overloaded trailer that dropped burning rubber and wood. It just ignited the grass -- and it's tinder dry right now," said Cal Fire Division Chief John Richardson.

At press time, firefighters had the fires about 90 percent contained. The Interlake Fire in Lockwood burned 47 acres, and the two fires in San Luis Obispo County burned about 15 acres.

Chief Richardson says the person responsible could have to pay a fine of $50,000+, what it cost to send six air tankers, two bulldozers, six fire engines and two hand crews to fight the fire. Wildfire fines can range from $10,000 to $20 million, the cost of the Zaca fire in Buellton in 2007.

According to Cal Fire's most recent data, vehicles caused less about nine percent of the wildfires in San Luis Obispo County in 2012, but made up 33 percent of the total wildfire cost that year.

Firefighters say with the exceptional drought, plus more people traveling during the summer months, they expect more fires caused by vehicles.

"If people would look and take care before they take off on a trip, check their tire pressure and not drag a chain - that would really help out," Richardson said.

Sky River RVs service manager Cliff Delong estimates that one out of three trailers is not hooked up properly, which makes it susceptible to creating sparks and causing fires. He says chains should hang roughly four inches below the hitch shank and well above the ground.

Fire investigators in Monterey County say they will release more information about the trailer and car, as well as whether there was negligence involved that would make the owner responsible for the fire.

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