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Dragging Chains Rank Near Top Of Wildfire Ignitors

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Sonora, CA – While a cause remains under investigation by fire investigators related to roadside fires in the Sonora area last weekend, CAL Fire reminds the public how dangerous dragging chains can be.

Last Sunday (June 19), firefighters responded to several blazes sparked along Highway 49, near Tuttletown in Tuolumne County. The flames forced the closure of the highway from Rawhide Road to Flume Road, as reported here. At the time, the CHP put out a be-on-the-lookout for a vehicle that was “possibly dragging a chain or even someone intentionally starting the blazes,” which officers were unable to locate.

The Tuolumne County Fire Department (TCFD) provided this picture recently taken along Highway 108 showing a vehicle dragging a chain and the sparks it produced. CAL Fire TCU spokesperson Emily Kilgore details, “Vehicle caused fires are the second to third highest cause of fire ignitions in the Tuolumne-Calaveras Unit. That flip flops back and forth between equipment use and vehicles. But those are in the top three.”

CAL Fire and TCFD recommend that when towing a boat, camping trailer, or any vehicle with chains attached, always make sure they are properly secured to prevent them from dragging on the roadway. They also advise drivers to check on chains every time a stop is made. Below are more tips on proper vehicle use to prevent wildfires, which CAL Fire asserts could prevent nearly all these fires if followed:

No Dragging Parts: 

  • Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained, with nothing dragging on the ground by using proper safety pins and hitch balls

Check Tire Pressure:

  • Maintain proper tire pressure. Driving on exposed wheel rims will throw sparks

Carry a fire extinguisher in your vehicle and learn how to use it:

  • Don’t drive your vehicle onto dry grass or brush. hot exhaust pipes and mufflers can start fires that you won’t even see—until it’s too late!

Properly Maintain Brakes:

  • Brakes worn too thin may cause metal-to-metal contact, which can cause a spark
  • CAL Fire dragging chains graphic