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Catalytic Converter Related Wildfires

Did you know that many road side fires that DFPA responds to are caused by vehicles? One of the most common vehicle related causes that we see are a result of faulty catalytic converters. Yesterday’s fire outside of Drain, near Hayhurst Road and Highway 38, was determined to be caused by a bad catalytic converter.



When a catalytic converter begin to fail, the insides of the catalytic converter will start to break apart and can go through the exhaust system and out the muffler. These pieces will either look like small bb’s or will be chunks shaped like honey comb and are extremely hot…so hot that it will look like sparks coming out of the exhaust system as the vehicle drive down the road. If these discharged pieces land on something that is flammable, a fire can occur.


While we only saw one fire result from yesterday’s incident near Hayhurst Road, it is common to have multiple fire starts along the same section of road that can stretch over several miles when faulty catalytic converters cause wildfires. This was the case last year with the Milepost 163 fires (six fires near Curtin) and in 2014 with the Clarks Branch Complex (9 fires between Myrtle Creek and Roberts Mountain).


While your vehicles check engine light should come on when you have a problem with your catalytic converter, some other common signs to watch for include:


• Reduced engine performance…especially when accelerating or going up hills. • Hearing a rattling noise from under the vehicle. • Having a sulfuric, rotten egg-like smell coming from the exhaust.


If your vehicle is experiencing any of these symptoms, make sure to have it checked!

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