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A firefighter talks about the danger of a vehicle fire

A vehicle crash into a power pole early Monday morning caused a number of small fires and left nearly 8,000 Rocky Mountain Power customers in the dark. (Photo: Kelli Pierce)

SALT LAKE CITY —  A highway vehicle fire accounts for one in every eight fires in the United States. 

The 2018 Carr wildfire in northern California, which killed seven people and became the eighth biggest in Californian history, started because of a freak accident. A couple’s trailer got a flat tire, the rim scraped the asphalt, sending out sparks that fueled the wildfire. 

From 2014 to 2016, around 171,500 highway vehicle fires occurred in the US, resulting in an annual average of 345 deaths, 1,300 injuries and $1.1 billion in property loss, according to FEMA

Assistant Chief Riley Pilgrim of Unified Fire Authority joined Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to discuss vehicle fires and how the chance of one occurring is exacerbated by the drought now plaguing Utah.

Pilgrim said drivers sometimes are unaware their car, truck or trailer is sparking flames. He cited an example of a driver pulling a trailer. The chain comes loose and is dragging along the asphalt road, igniting small brush fires that eventually grow into one much larger fire, all the time the driver is oblivious to the conflagration that has started.

Vehicle fire breeds fire

Pilgrim said from a firefighter’s perspective, a vehicle fire creates two problems.

“We’ll get up there, and we’ve got to deal with not only a vehicle fire, and a possible medical emergency or injured person, but then the hillside starts on fire,” Pilgrim said.

Pilgrim said if you see a car, truck, or trailer with a flat tire or is sparking, call 911, note the license plate number and direction of travel.

“Maintain a safe distance because that person can be dangerous to you as well. It could be concerning that person doesn’t know their cars has a flat tire and they’re driving for miles. It could be an impairment issue there . . . We want to make sure that we get law enforcement there as quickly as possible since they’re definitely more prepared to deal with that and most of us are,” he said.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.