NewsWildfire Watch


How to help prevent vehicle-sparked grass fires

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Posted at 11:33 AM, Jun 22, 2021

GREAT FALLS — The Montana Highway Patrol is asking people to take steps to help prevent wildfires, specifically with ensuring proper vehicle maintenance.

Many factors can cause wildfires: some natural, such as lightning strikes, while others can be caused through negligence by people. In the Great Falls area, despite some spots of moisture, conditions for wildfires are still dangerous.

“In terms of the amount of moisture that’s available within vegetation around the region, we are already running drier than average in that regard,” said Paul Nutter, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Great Falls.

Drivers are responsible for some of the wildfires sparked along the road. In order to help prevent man-made wildfires, the Montana Highway Patrol is asking everyone to make sure their vehicles aren’t the start of the next fire.

Before starting your vehicle, make sure there’s nothing under or behind your car, such as dragging chains for tow trucks and trailers that could throw sparks. Also make sure to maintain proper tire pressure and car brakes, as the exposed metal could throw sparks as well.

If your vehicle breaks down or over-heats, be sure to pull your car into an area free of dry grass or brush. Hot exhaust pipes and mufflers can start fires you won’t see until it’s too late.

“With the temperatures that are higher and the summer, a lot of vehicles, if they’re not maintained will start to overheat,” said Montana Highway Patrol Sergeant Jay Nelson. “A lot of people will pull off and then pull off into a grassy area and that engine compartment of the vehicle is extremely hot, and can often start a wildfire.”

The Montana Highway Patrol also suggests keeping a fire extinguisher in your vehicle and knowing how to use it.