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Roadside fires: How to keep your car from becoming a fire hazard - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Roadside fires: How to keep your car from becoming a fire hazard

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Hours after a tractor sparked a wildfire in Templeton, an RV caught fire in Paso Robles Wednesday night.

Videos and photos from Highway 46 East near Mill Road showed the motorhome in flames on the shoulder near a hillside. The flames did not travel far thanks to weed abatement and responding firefighters. No word yet on how it started.

However, now that the hills are turning from green to gold, it doesn't take long for a spark to become big problem - as seen during the Chimney Fire last year.

"We've been getting a lot of roadside fires for fairly early in the season," said Chief Bill White of Templeton Fire and Emergency Services.

Especially during this time of year, White says, where more visitors are hitting the roads. 

"We're seeing a lot of chain dragging where people who are towing trailers don't have the right distances to offset, so it's causing sparks. We're (also) seeing catalytic converter failures," White said.

Today, it was a tractor's engine that caught fire, spreading to one acre of grass.

"It was a mechanical problem with the motor," Chief White said.

"I can't even fathom how some people drive around with cars that are falling apart," says John Reeves, owner of Reeves Auto Repair.

Reeves says he's seen too many neglected cars, adding that problems often start with fluid leaks.

"This is a power steering line (that's leaking) right next to the catalytic converter. A catalytic converter can run between 800 and sometimes up to 1,600 degrees," Reeves said.

Ideally, you should regularly check levels on your coolant, oil, reservoir and transmission fluid. 

"If transmission fluid is overfilled or underfilled, the fluid can aerate and spit out and cause a fluid leak that can get on the exhaust and catch fire," Reeves said.

Reeves also advises keeping your tires from balding. He says bare steel belts in the tire (beneath the rubber tread) can also cause sparks when it contacts the asphalt.

If you're towing a trailer, double check the chains.

"It's always good to twist them two to three times so they hang just below the hitch," Reeves said.

Fire managers ask for residents to mow dry grass before 10 a.m. and to keep a fire extinguisher in their car.

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