Fuel to the fire: The surprising culprits behind grass fires

Fuel to the fire: The surprising culprits behind grass fires
County Line Fire (Source: KFDA)
Power lines (Source: KFDA)
Power lines (Source: KFDA)
Temperature coming off of a catalytic converter (Source: KFDA)
Temperature coming off of a catalytic converter (Source: KFDA)

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - The tiniest of sparks can start a mighty wildfire.

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Here in the Panhandle, the current drought makes that even more possible, with a variety of things to act as a match.

"There's just a lot of different things that causes fires," said Capt. Larry Davis of the Amarillo Fire Department. "Something as small as particles coming out of the exhaust of a car or truck can cause fires. Of course, people throwing cigarettes out can cause fires."

What many people may not realize is their cars can be a big cause of these fires. The catalytic converter can heat up to extreme temperatures.

"When it's running, it can reach very high temperatures, especially if it's sitting at idle for an extended period of time," said Chauncy Hanke, owner of Chauncy's Automotive. "They'll actually get to where they're glowing red, hot enough to where they can start any kind of fire."

When that hot metal touches dry materials like dead grass, it has the potential to be very dangerous.

"Especially if grass is touching it, any brush, anything, sitting on the side of the road," said Hanke. "You should never leave your car sitting on the side of the road."

Winds causing power lines to swing are also a big culprit behind grass fires in rural areas.

"With 22,500 volts going across there or higher voltages, as they hit and ignite, it causes an arcing effect, and sometimes that ignites a fire out in the country," said David Elizalde, owner of David's Quality Electric.

Elizalde also says that electricity-caused grass fires can start in residential areas.

"As the wires move back and forth, they rub on the ground wire, and once it rubs on the ground wire, generally, it creates a weak spot and arcing," said Elizalde. "It's ignited from the electricity to neutral. I've seen it many times where it's started a grass fire in people's yards."

Fire officials urge people to use caution, especially on days with extreme fire danger conditions like high winds and hot temperatures.

"Just always keep that present in your inner thoughts that this is, everything is really dry here and the wind's really high," said Davis. "What can I do to not cause the problem."

With the right steps, everyone can do their part to keep the Panhandle lands and those who live there, safe and fire-free.

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