Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Liz Miller
Observer Staff Writer 

Mountain Bike Pedal Caused Rock Creek Wildfire in August

Cars are more frequently the culprits in California wildfires


September 4, 2016

U.S. Forest Service

Dry grass and brush are easily ignited.

Investigators have announced that a pedal strike on the Lower Rock Creek trail at the California/Nevada border acted like a flint and steel fire striker that caused a spark and ignited grass nearby.

122 acres burned over eight days and led to the evacuation of the small town of Swall Meadows, population 220. A number of roads were closed as the fire jumped around the dry landscape.

A crew of 338 personnel were needed to contain the blaze, including five helicopters and 16 fire engines.

The cause of the fire was described as "conclusive," with marks and metal fragments on the rock as evidence.

The US National Forest Service said: "A fire ignition from this type of trigger is a testament to how dry the area is right now. All residents and visitors are asked to be extremely careful with anything that may cause a fire while you are out in the forest."

A spokesperson for the Service has reassured mountain bikers that this is unlikely to affect trail access as it was not done maliciously, but encouraged riders to be aware and alert to this possible danger.

More than 150,500 acres have been burned so far in California this year.

Although it is unusual for bicycles to be responsible for fires, cars are often the culprit.

The Old Fire that burned near Calabasas and the West San Fernando Valley earlier this year was reportedly caused by a car running into a post, but just parking your car on dry grass can lead to devastating results. The catalytic converter on the underside of your vehicle can reach up to 1200 degrees!

Motorists, bicyclists, and anyone outdoors should follow these rules during the hot, dry days of summer:

• Look behind you before driving away from fire-sensitive locations, such as areas with tall grass or campsites, to check for signs of a developing fire.

• Observe "Red Flag" fire-weather warnings. These warnings are issued when weather conditions are conducive to the easy start and rapid spread of wildfires.

In addition, the driver of any motorized vehicle should be aware of these safety issues:

• Avoid driving or parking your vehicle in tall grass. (Or any dry vegetation)

• Never throw a burning cigarette out of a vehicle.

• When pulling a trailer, attach safety chains securely; loose chains can drag on the pavement and cause sparks, igniting roadside fires.

• Always use a spark arrestor on internal-combustion engines.

Remember, only YOU can prevent wildfires.


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