A brush fire reportedly started by a catalytic converter burned two to three acres today off Highway 101 just south of Buellton, according to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. Fire crews responded around 12:30 p.m. and were able to stop any further threat before 2 p.m.
County Fire spokesperson Captain Scott Safechuck said that fire investigators found evidence of “catalytic converter material” that spewed from a vehicle in the right-hand lane onto the dry brush by the side of the highway. “This is not uncommon at all,” Safechuck told the Independent.
He credited a quick coordinated response between Santa Barbara County Fire, Cal Fire, and the U.S. Forest Services, which tackled the fire with dozers, air support, and ground crews. “With moisture being so low,” he said, “it really takes an effort from all of us and our counterparts.”
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Poorly maintained catalytic converters are a serious risk, especially during high fire season, Safechuck said, and he encouraged all drivers to check and be aware of any potential problems with their vehicles. Dirty or faulty converters can malfunction — particularly when driving uphill — and can send pieces of burning-hot material through the vehicle’s exhaust system, creating a huge fire risk. Early signs of bad catalytic converters are loss of engine power, excessive noise, or an inability to accelerate normally.
At least one structure was threatened, according to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, but no damage was reported.