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CAL FIRE SLO seeing increase in car fires - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

CAL FIRE SLO seeing increase in car fires

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Photo: Manuel Laura Zarate Photo: Manuel Laura Zarate

Local CAL FIRE officials say they've noticed an increase in cars catching fire this summer with some causing major wildfires in San Luis Obispo County.

Firefighters can't say for sure why they're seeing more car fires but do say recent heat waves and extra dry roadside vegetation are partly to blame for the associated wildfires.

Just in the past two weeks, two car fires sparked blazes along the Cuesta Grade.

"When you're pulling a grade like that, you can see your car's exhaust temperatures reaching into the thousands of degrees," said Chris Elms,  a public information officer for CAL FIRE SLO.

If your vehicle catches on fire, there's no law on where you should stop, but firefighters say try to avoid pulling over in an area of brush.

"Try a wider pullout or a wider shoulder to get your car off the road," Elms said.

A car may catch fire for a number of reasons, but some local mechanics say when they hear about car fires, it's usually due to poor or sloppy maintenance.

"The hotter it is, the easier it is for cars to catch on fire," said Don Brimage, manager at Certified Auto Repair.

Dirty exhaust systems, overheated engines, and spilled or leaking fluids create a big risk. Brimage says, if you can't afford to fix all the issues with your vehicle, you can still lessen the chances of a fire starting.

"At least rinse the oil debris off. Do that every so often if you can't afford to repair it," Brimage said.

CAL FIRE SLO says it's up to drivers to make sure their cars are safe to be on the road. Elms says, if fire investigators can prove some sort of maintenance negligence led your car to start a wildfire, you could potentially face charges and fines.

Fire officials say, since June 1, they've dealt with 13 car fires, three of which led to significant wildfires: the Tower Fire, Grade Fire and Hill Fire.

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