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Tips to preventing roadside fires

Posted at 5:10 PM, Jun 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-29 22:27:35-04

Tom's Auto Service in Arroyo Grande says a well-maintained vehicle is the best way drivers can prevent future roadside fires.

This comes after CAL FIRE SLO determined the Camino Fire near Huasna started from a vehicle's catalytic converter catching fire on brush off the side of the road.

"Our law enforcement investigators found particles of catalytic converter, so that is what they think started the fire," said Oscar Villanueva, a public information trainee with CAL FIRE SLO.

While Villanueva says his department doesn't have the exact number of fires that have been started by catalytic converters this fire season, he says the impact of just one car pulling off the road in a bad spot can make all the difference.

"We are thinking it was maybe an old catalytic converter, maybe it leaks or something and is rusted to the point where now there was a breach in the catalytic converter and some of those particles came out," Villanueva said.

Meantime, Chris Curzon, a smog technician at Tom's Auto Service, says clients come into their shop roughly once a week with catalytic converter problems.

"The catalytic converter itself, temperatures normally operate at 1200 degrees, and they can get up to as high as 2000 degrees, so just the catalytic converter itself making contact with anything combustible and dry can ignite it very easily."

"Just be cognizant of where you are stopping," Villanueva said. "If your car overheats try and see if you can find an area that has bare minimal soil or noncombustible vegetation to just be on the safe side."

As for the vehicle responsible for starting the Camino Fire, CAL FIRE SLO officials say those details are still under investigation. Villanueva says he anticipates his team will have contained the fire by Sunday, July 3.

CAL FIRE SLO says the last time a large fire was sparked by a catalytic converter was around this time last year off Highway 46 East near Tobin James Winery.