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Wildfires can start easier than you think

(Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP)

Wildfires don’t just come from cigarette butts or mismanaged campfires.

They can also be started by your car. Dolores Garcia is the fire mitigation and fire communication specialist with the Bureau of Land Management. She said many fires are started on roadsides this time of year.

“A lot of times it’s as a result of dragging trailer chains, dragging exhaust systems, pulling over and parking on high grass. Either that or poorly maintained vehicles,” Garcia said.

Garcia also pointed out that poorly installed, maintained or just old brake systems can also cause sparks to fly.

“As you use the brakes or as you’re going maybe downhill and really pressing on those brakes for a long period of time….the brake pad can fall apart, and, or if it’s very worn down it can cause sparks with the rim of the tire or with the tire itself,” she said.

Bad brakes can sometimes cause a piece of hot metal to fly off a vehicle. If it lands in the grass or weeds by the side of the road it can start a fire.

Before you hit the road, Garcia recommends inspecting your vehicle thoroughly. Walk around your car or truck. Secure any loose or dragging bits like chains, trailer hook-ups or exhaust systems.

She added that if you do need to pull over, try to find a spot that’s clear of weeds or grass.

“Anything that drags and is metal can spark and start a wildfire,” Garcia said.

If you go target shooting, you also have to be careful not to set off a wildfire. Garcia said you should shoot in areas free of grass. Bullet fragments can exceed 14,000 degrees and could easily start a fire.

“Use a nonflammable target so that you really aren’t going to be causing a wildfire,” Garcia said.

Steel core and solid copper ammunition have the highest potential of starting fires. Lead core bullets are less likely to ignite surrounding plants.

“If it’s really too hot out there and the conditions are dry, kind of think twice before conducting any type of activity that may start a wildfire or may generate a spark,” said Garcia.

You should also keep a shovel, fire extinguisher and extra water with you when you shoot in case sparks fly.

Garcia also adds wildfires don’t just happen in the wild. The Bureau of Land Management wants you to be careful in your own backyard. You should try to pick up as many rocks as you can before using a lawn mower.

“The lawn mower blades can strike rocks, creating a spark and in dry grass can cause wildfires and we’ve seen cases of that as well,” Garcia said.

She said using a weed whacker will reduce the chance of sparks catching dry grass on fire. Homeowners need to take care of their lawns to make sure they aren’t a fire hazard.

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