Wednesday, February 15, 2017

No butts about it: Roadside grass fires are preventable

It has been almost a year since the largest wildfire in Kansas’ history blazed across the south-central portion of the state. As reported in an earlier post, The Anderson Creek Wildfire burned over 400,000 acres and the images of charred landscapes, homes and structures have not been forgotten.

Last summer, KWCH reported that the wildfire was ruled “accidental.” The article noted that investigators found the cause of the fire could have been sparked by radial tire cables or snow chains.

According to the U.S.  Fire Administration, the majority of wildfires like the Anderson Creek Wildfire are unintentional.

Many roadside blazes are caused by sparks created by metal hitting the pavement on roads. Other fires could be caused by cars that are parked in tall grass that come in contact with a hot engine or exhaust system. Some are even caused by cigarette butts carelessly thrown out of car windows.

Grass Fire on Monday on U.S.-69.

While grass fires are not rare in Kansas, at least three roadside blazes were battled in the past week along U.S. 69 in Northeast Kansas. In an article written by the Kansas City Star, The Overland Park Fire Department said that the suspected culprits were discarded cigarettes.

While the causes for the majority of grass fires are accidental, there are plenty of ways you can avoid unintentionally starting a grass fire while driving.

Ensure trailer safety chains are secured. Dangling chains can get hot as they hit the pavement and cause sparks.

Don’t park your car in tall vegetation. Emergencies happen. Sometimes you need to safely pull off to the side of the road. Be aware of your surroundings. Your car’s hot engine or exhaust system could ignite tall grass if it smolders long enough.

Check your exhaust system: Loose or damaged exhaust systems could allow small sparks to escape.

Don’t throw cigarette butts out of your vehicle. Cigarettes are manufactured to burn slowly. When thrown out of car windows, they have the potential to ignite dry grass and brush hours after being tossed out of a moving car.

Grass fires along the side of the roads are serious and can impede traffic due to lack of visibility. Taking these preventative steps could keep you and other travelers safe. 

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