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Eclipse week tips: Don't let your car spark a wildfire

A car that rolled onto grass two weeks ago sparked a wildfire near Maupin. (Central Oregon Fire Info via Twitter)

The Oregon Department of Transportation and Oregon Department of Forestry have teamed up to get out the message about the wildfire dangers posed by your car during eclipse week.

Just last week, a car that rolled from a parking lot in Maupin sparked a wildfire when its hot undercarriage came in contact with dry grass.

“Try not to drive into anything like tall grass,” said ODOT spokesman, Dave Thompson. “There will be off-road parking at a number of events you might go to or in a campsite, but the foliage has been cut back for where your cars are supposed to be. “

Numerous wildfires around the state over the years were started by cars, either by hot catalytic converters, dragging chains, flat tires or broken axles.

“The moment your hot catalytic converter, or any area of the undercarriage when it’s hot, touches dried-out grass, it’ll burst into flames -- just that quickly,” Thompson said.

Oregon forestry officials also recommend keeping water, a shovel and fire extinguisher in your car in case a fire starts.

“All it takes is a spark and your car as a heat source, is full of sparks,” Thompson said. “So check the undercarriage, is there anything hanging that could be dragging that could create sparks?”

The tips:

1. Secure tow chains. Make sure all vehicle parts are secure and not dragging. A loose safety tow chain or muffler striking a rock or pavement can send a shower of sparks into dry vegetation.

2. Check your tires and make sure they receive regular maintenance. Once a flat tire shreds, the bare wheel can shower sparks on roadside vegetation.

3. Maintain your exhaust system. A worn-out catalytic converter can cast off extremely hot pieces of material into dry roadside vegetation.

4. Check underneath your car. Make sure it’s free of oil leaks and that fuel and brake lines are intact.

5. Stay off the grass. Avoid parking or idling on dry grass. Vehicle exhaust and dry vegetation is a dangerous combination.

6. Stay on the road. Off-road driving is prohibited in most areas during fire season.

7. Be prepared. Keep a cellphone, water, a shovel and fire extinguisher with you in case a fire starts.

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