Every day, we’re faced with such a barrage of advice — “Buckle up!” “Exercise!” “Drive safely!” “Recycle!” — that it all becomes so much background noise until Something Happens.
For those of us living on the Central Coast, that Something occurred Sunday evening, when a single vehicle allegedly caused three separate fires: the Cuesta Fire, which came within a quarter-mile of Santa Margarita and forced evacuation of hundreds of residents; the Grade Fire near Buellton; and the Cholame Fire off Highway 41.
Authorities believe the fires were started either by a tow chain or an overheated catalytic converter.
The estimate of fighting just the Cuesta Fire had already reached $1 million on Monday.
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And yes, the driver of the vehicle (who was unidentified as of Tuesday afternoon) is liable for the cost.
But it isn’t just money at stake here.
Think of how devastating it would be if residents lost their homes and a lifetime of treasured possessions or — heaven forbid — if people were injured or killed in a blaze inadvertently caused by carelessness.
And no, this wasn’t just a random piece of bad luck. This is the second local fire of the season blamed on a vehicle. In June, car exhaust caused a 1,800-acre blaze east of Santa Margarita.
Elsewhere, last month’s 8,000-acre Wragg Fire near Lake Berryessa in Napa County was blamed on car exhaust.
The Tribune published several tips Tuesday on how to prevent vehicles from causing wildfires. In case you missed them, here’s a recap:
When towing, make sure chains are not dragging on the ground.
Keep vehicles properly maintained. If your car is backfiring, don’t ignore it!
Maintain proper tire pressure.
Carry a fire extinguisher in your car and learn how to use it.
Keep brakes properly maintained.
Don’t drive or park on dry grass or brush. And never, ever throw a lighted cigarette from a car window. For more information on fire safety, go to http://www.preventwildfireca.org/. You’ve probably heard much of it before. But the Cuesta Fire — which could have had devastating consequences for the town of Santa Margarita if not for the excellent work of fire crews — has given us good reason to not just hear the advice, but to heed it, as well.