Every year, millions of people take to the road. However, many people don’t realize how many wildland fires are caused by vehicles. The National Fire Protection Agency reports that three-fourths of highway vehicle fires resulted from mechanical or electrical malfunctions.
Your vehicle and trailer provide many ignition sources - improperly greased bearings, dragging trailer chains, failing catalytic converters, older exhaust systems that allow carbon build up, flat tires or a lack of regularly scheduled maintenance. Maintain and use your vehicle responsibly to reduce wildfire risk. Have vehicles inspected annually by a trained professional technician. Stay on designated roads and never park or drive over dry grass. The exterior of your exhaust system can reach temperatures of 2,800°F and easily ignite dry grass and brush.
- Check fluids. Brakes or transmissions that overheat due to lack of fluid can shatter, casting off hot metal fragments.
- Watch for fluid leaks. Check vehicles for cracked or blistered hoses and wiring with loose, exposed metal or cracked insulation. Have these conditions repaired as soon as possible.
- Grease wheel bearings. Trailers that sit unused for long periods of time and those exposed to water need more attention. Check tire pressure and wear to prevent blowouts.
- Be alert to changes. A louder than usual noise from your exhaust, smoke coming from the tailpipe or a backfiring exhaust system could indicate problems. Catalytic converters can break down, ejecting particles as hot as 1,600°F. If you suspect exhaust or emission problems, have the vehicle inspected and repaired as soon as possible.
- Keep your vehicle aligned. A misaligned axle can cause a tire to ignite.
- Check trailer safety chains to make sure they are not hitting the ground. Dragging chains can throw sparks.