News Release - PNWCG

Pacific Northwest Wildfire Coordinating Group

For Immediate Release

Release date: August 7, 2020

Get Ready for that Summer Road Trip:

Make Sure Your Ride Doesn’t Spark Wildfires

As many people in the Pacific Northwest head out for summer road trips, the Pacific Northwest Wildfire
Coordinating Group (PNWCG) offers the reminder that vehicles can spark wildfires during the hot and
dry months of summer.

“This year, many families will choose to take road trips for their summer vacations,” says Lauren
Maloney, Chair of the PNWCG Communication, Prevention and Investigation Committee. “Taking extra
care to prepare for road trips and outdoor adventures should include securing and maintaining vehicles
before people hit the road to help avoid sparking a wildfire.”

As of August 6th, there have been 1,983 wildfires in Oregon and Washington, and 85 percent of them
have been human-caused. In Washington, there have been 890 human-caused wildfires out of 922, while
of the 1.061 wildfires to date in Oregon, 787 of them were started by humans. While some of this ratio is
the result of lower-than-typical lightning ignitions, it is important for people to pay extra attention to
avoid doing anything that could start a wildfire.

Under hot, dry conditions, all types of motorized vehicles can ignite a wildfire. An above-average risk of
large fires is expected in central Oregon, southwest Oregon, southeast Oregon, and central Washington
through August. Fire officials ask for your help. Follow these basic safety tips when you ride or drive to
keep an enjoyable outing from turning into a costly, damaging wildfire:


 Ensure all parts of your vehicle are secure and not touching the ground. A loose safety tow chain
or muffler dragging on pavement can send a shower of sparks into dry vegetation, igniting not one
but several wildfires along a roadside.

 Check your tire pressure and look for signs of wear. Once a flat tire shreds, the bare wheel on
pavement can cast sparks onto roadside vegetation. This scenario has resulted in numerous Pacific
Northwest wildfires. Likewise, poorly lubricated wheel bearings can overheat and ignite, and the
metal-on-metal contact of a worn-out brake can emit sparks. Ensure that they receive regular

 Maintain and clean exhaust systems and spark arrestors so they are undamaged and functioning
properly. A worn-out catalytic converter can degrade and cast off extremely hot pieces of
material, and a faulty spark arrestor can shed hot metal. Engine compartments can collect
debris and ignite a spark. Also, regularly inspect the vehicle undercarriage to ensure that fuel
and brake lines are intact and no oil leaks are apparent.

 A running vehicle’s exhaust system can reach temperatures up to 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit. Avoid
driving, idling, or parking on tall, dry grass or piles of brush that can touch the underside of a
vehicle. A few seconds of contact between dry grass and a hot catalytic converter or exhaust
system can start a fire. Operate ATVs on established roads and trails, and park on gravel surfaces
or developed roadside pull-outs. Always carry an approved fire extinguisher on vehicles that are
used off-road.

 Follow recreational forest laws during fire season, including whether off-road driving is permitted.
Report all fires immediately. Keep a cell phone, water, a shovel and a fire extinguisher with you in
the event a fire starts.

 Make sure that your RV’s cooking appliances, generator, and propane system are all working

 Respect private forest lands and their designated closure areas.

Contact: Kristin Babbs, Executive Director
Keep Oregon Green Association
Carol Connolly, Public Information Officer
Northwest Interagency Coordination Center
(503) 808-2764,


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