San Diego

Car Maintenance Can Help Prevent Wildfires: Expert

Faulty catalytic converters to blame for two recent wildfires in San Diego County

Two wildfires that scorched hundreds of acres in San Diego County were caused by drivers who may not even know they were at fault, according to fire officials.

A broken down car part called a catalytic converter is to blame for both.

Nick Sciara with FTS Auto Repair told NBC 7, it's a problem he sees regularly. 

"People are just super busy in their day to day lives, where the car actually comes last until it finally stops," he said.

Sciara said not taking proper care of your car can have serious repercussions, such as a 400-acre wildfire in Alpine, which forced evacuations and shut down parts of the Interstate 8 in Lakeside for more than a day.

"That filter- it gets overheated and breaks down, and then it starts to basically fall apart and that's what exits the tailpipe at several hundred degrees," said Sciara.

He said if you take your car in for routine maintenance, your catalytic converter could last hundreds of thousands of miles.

Sciara added this is not something we can check at home or with an instant oil change. But it should be a priority, especially during fire season.

"Without proper maintenance, this piece fails and it causes bigger problems later and potentially a fire," said Sciara.

Cal Fire officials told NBC 7 just this year, they have already responded to 69 car fires in San Diego County.  That’s only one of several agencies helping fight fires, so that number is much higher.

The majority of cars have at least one catalytic converter, Sciara said. Any car made after 1970 is required by law to have one to help keep the environment clean.

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