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ODOT offers tips to avoid sparking a wildfire behind the wheel

From maintaining proper tire pressure to securing chains, the Oregon Department of Transportation has outlined 10 tips intended to help motorists avoid inadvertently starting a wildfire when behind the wheel.

Last year, cars and vehicles were the number one cause of wildfires during the summer last year, according to a release from ODOT issued Monday morning drawing from Keep Oregon Green data.

Wildfire risk gradually increases as temperatures rise, forests dry out and winds carry accidental sparks into fast-spreading fires. In time for Wildfire Prevention Month, these are ODOT’s recommendations for avoiding vehicle caused fires.

Stay on hardened surfaces

When pulling off the road, ODOT urges motorists to avoid driving over dry grass that could make contact with a running vehicle’s hot exhaust system or catalytic converter.

Never toss a lit cigarette, ever

Throwing any burning materials from a vehicle — whether it’s a cigarette butt or something else — poses a significant fire risk.

Carry a fire extinguisher

ODOT advises that motorists carry a fire extinguisher with them at all times, and know how to use it, stating in the release, “You may save lives by putting out a small fire before it turns huge.”

Maintain proper tire pressure

Vehicles driving on rims, according to ODOT, risk throwing off sparks that cause wildfires.

Secure tow chains

Tow chains that drag on the road risk causing sparks. State officials encourage motorists to securely stow chains to ensure they aren’t dragging.

Maintain your exhaust system

ODOT warns motorists to replace worn-out catalytic converters, which can cast out hot pieces of material into dry grasses and brush on the roadside.

If you see something, say something.

State officials encourage motorists to warn others about the dangers of carelessness with fireworks and other flammable items.

Stay on the road

During fire season, officials warn that off-road driving is prohibited in most areas.

Be prepared

Keep a charged cell phone, water, a shovel and a fire extinguisher handy in case a fire starts.

Service your vehicle regularly

Proper servicing by a trained mechanic helps prevent an engine from shooting off unnecessary heat, electrical sparks and leaking flammable vehicle fluids that can easily start a fire.