Vehicle Sparks Cause Many Human-Made Wildfires in San Diego

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A Cal Fire truck at the scene of another fire. Photo by Ed Sherman

Data collected by CAL FIRE shows sparks from vehicles are a top cause of wildfires in San Diego County, suggesting drivers may inadvertently set fires without realizing it, said a county official.

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San Diego County Fire Authority and CAL FIRE Capt. Kendal Bortisser have discussed the top causes of fires in San Diego County from last year to now, said officials. The numbers show that most wildfires were caused by vehicle sparks, in cases where the investigator was able to determine a cause.

It’s common for catalytic converters to ignite fires, Bortissier told the County News Center. This happens when a catalytic converter, which is located beneath a vehicle’s engine, spits out hot material that can cause fire. Often, the driver doesn’t even realize they’re starting fires that way.

In order to prevent wildfires, Bortissier says it’s best for drivers to pull over onto paved surfaces. When driving over grass, be aware that it can catch fire from engine sparks.

As wildfires are one of the biggest disaster risks in San Diego County, officials say it’s important to be aware of vehicle sparks. Bortissier also recommends that all drivers carry a fire extinguisher. If a fire gets out of control, the next step would be to call 911 and report the fire.

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