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Highway 66 fires caused by faulty catalytic converter

I haven’t seen anything about those fires along Highway 66 in early September. Do they know what caused them?

— Via email

The fires you referred to, which started Monday, Sept. 9, were caused by a catalytic converter that failed, but fire officials don’t know whose vehicle caused the problem.

Catalytic converters reduce pollutants in vehicle exhaust. When they malfunction, however, they can break apart and the pieces can exit through the vehicle’s tail pipe, according to the Douglas Forest Protective Association.

“These pieces will either look like small BBs or will be chunks shaped like honeycomb and are extremely hot so hot that it will look like sparks coming out of the exhaust system as the vehicle drives down the road,” according to a post on the group’s Facebook page. “If these discharged pieces land on something that is flammable, a fire can occur.”

So it happened with the four Highway 66 fires, sparked near the intersection with Dead Indian Memorial Road. Those fires ranged from one-tenth of an acre to an acre. Luckily, crews from ODF, Jackson County Fire District No. 5 and Ashland Fire & Rescue hopped on them quickly and snuffed them all before they got out of control.

“Now we’re actively looking to determine if we could figure out what vehicle it came from,” said ODF public information officer Natalie Weber. “That’s what they’re working on right now.”

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.