Fire in Shasta County caused by bad catalytic converter

SHASTA COUNTY, Calif. – A wildfire that started in Northern California this past weekend was started by a vehicle’s malfunctioning catalytic converter.

On Sunday, June 20, there was a report of a fire on Highway 44 east of Millville, California.

The Cow Fire quickly grew to 761 acres and is currently 50% contained.

Around the time the fire started, a witness saw a vehicle running poorly and later relayed that information along with a description to investigators.

The vehicle was located in Palo Cedro the next morning.

CAL FIRE said the vehicle was inspected and was found to have a failed catalytic converter.

When a catalytic converter begins to fail, the honeycomb structure inside breaks apart and can shoot super-heated pieces of metal out of the exhaust. If the pieces land on something flammable, a fire can occur.

“Let this serve as a reminder that many wildfires start along roadways each year from malfunctioning vehicles,” CAL FIRE said. “Recognizing the signs of a failing catalytic converter and regular vehicle maintenance can play a major role in preventing wildfires.”

CAL FIRE said signs and symptoms include:

  • Reduced acceleration power
  • Engine misfires
  • Increased emissions
  • Reduction in engine performance
  • Illuminated check engine light

Other signs may include hearing rattling from underneath the vehicle or a sulfuric, rotten egg-like smell coming from the exhaust.

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