BLM Firefighters conduct a prescribed burn in the Hualapai Mountains. (Photo by Charles Black)
PHOENIX – Summer is right around the corner, and with it comes an increased risk of wildfires along state highways caused by motorists dragging chains, driving on underinflated tires and tossing cigarettes.
Fires along highways not only put people and property at risk but can cause long backups and even extended closures.
Last June, the 377 Fire in Navajo County started when dragging metal on a trailer sparked several fires along 24 miles of State Route 377 between Heber-Overgaard and Holbrook. Those fires grew into a 5,000-acre wildfire that closed the highway for four days and prompted evacuations.
“Simple tasks like properly inflating your tires and taking a moment to make sure nothing is dragging on your vehicle or trailer can significantly reduce the risk of creating sparks that can cause wildfires,” said Dallas Hammit, the Arizona Department of Transportation’s state engineer and deputy director for transportation. “One act of carelessness, like tossing a lit cigarette out the window, can potentially burn thousands of acres.”
According to the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, dragging chains is one of the main causes of fires along highways.
“Roadside fires continue to be one of the biggest causes of Arizona’s wildfires every year, especially on heavily traveled highways like Interstates 10 and 17. A majority of these roadside fires are preventable, yet they continue to happen,” said Tiffany Davila, public affairs officer for the Department of Forestry and Fire Management. “Please do your part to help keep wildfire activity low this summer. Before traveling, ensure tow chains are secure and your vehicle is properly serviced. We all need to do our part.”
Here’s how you can help cut down on sparks that start wildfires:
- Check and secure tow chains, and never substitute parts when towing.
- Make sure nothing is hanging beneath your vehicle and dragging on the pavement.
- Check tire pressure before you travel. Exposed wheel rims can cause sparks.
- Don’t park in tall grass, as the heat from parts under your vehicle can start a fire.
For more information on how to prevent fires, please visit wildlandfire.az.gov.