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Avoiding Fire Hazards on the Roadways

Cigarette butts, dragging chains are just a few things to keep in mind as we head out on the road during wildfire season.

Posted: May. 7, 2018 4:46 AM
Updated: May. 7, 2018 9:32 AM

Butte County, Calif-- It's all too easy to accidentally start a wildfire, and the California Highway Patrol warns us motorists that there are a few important things we all need to be aware of to ensure we don't spark that flame that causes widespread devastation.

About 15% of Californians smoke cigarettes, and while most understand that flicking a butt out of a window can be a costly fine, it could also ultimately land you in prison.

According to the CHP, you're breaking the law even by 'ashing' out the window as you drive.

"Don't throw the lit cigarette out the window," urges CHP Officer Logan Callahan. "We've seen over the last year the consequences of sever wildfires - people losing their homes, the devastation of property. and in the aftermath of the fire is the lack of erosion control of the vegetation - we saw that in Santa Barbara County with the mudslides after the fire down there."

And arson investigators are typically able to determine the causes of any major fires.

So, if you smoke, public safety officials say you can use an ash-tray designed for vehicles - or just don't do it while on the road.

It's not just what you toss from the vehicle - car engines can get up to twelve-thousand degrees - so take care where you park your car during fire season - make sure it's not above dry grass or brush.

At this time of year, virtually any ignition source - a lightning strike, an errant cigarette butt, even a spark from the undercarriage of a car - can start a major wildfire.

Your vehicle's engine can get up to 1200 degrees, and it was an engine exhaust that caused the Saddle Fire in Butte County just two years ago.

Imagine steel striking the pavement on the highway at 65 miles an hour on a hot, dry day - it's a fire waiting to happen.

The California Highway Patrol says when you're towing, you have a big responsibility, and there's a lot that can go wrong if you're not careful.

Tow safety chains have to be used in addition to a ball-coupler or fifth wheel, but the need to be securely fastened.

"Go ahead and inspect the safety chain before your trips - if you're noticing links that are worn down, that's an indicator that they've been dragging. We don't want any of these tragedies to happen, we don't want anyone to have to suffer as a result of wildfire damage or mudslide damage as a result of fires," said Callahan.

There can't be any excess slack and the chains have to be short enough to keep from striking the ground.

If the chains aren't strong enough, they'll snap if the hitch comes loose.

They need to be secured to the vehicle with a closing, locking hook and check the ball size the attached to the trailer coupler to make sure that it matches.

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