SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The Los Padres National Forest released the cause of the Whittier Fire Monday afternoon. A passenger car driving through tall grass on the hillside above Camp Whittier is to blame for the blaze that broke out on July 8, 2017.
Santa Maria City Fire Battalion Chief Thomas Crakes had engines, brush trucks and overhead personnel responding to the Whittier Fire this summer.
"You can't outrun it, You can't survive it. In the next few years until our climate changes back and we get our water and our green fuels back, everybody needs to be fire wise," said Crakes.
That includes understanding just how hot the underside of a vehicle can get and your proximity to dry fuel.
"The newer diesel engines, they'll put out 1,300° on the exhaust," said Crakes.
In his close to 35 years of experience, Crakes says it is not uncommon for a car to be at fault when looking at incidents like the Whittier Fire.
"When you pull off the road for safety, make sure you pull into a safe location and that means not having grass come up too high on your vehicle where it could get in contact with your exhaust or hot engine components because that's most likely what started that fire with a vehicle involved," said Crakes.
While Crakes says the start of the Whittier Fire is innocent, he explains how a spark could be avoided in the future.
"Take something down, knock the weeds down. Make sure there's not brush coming up underneath touching your exhaust system and stuff," said Crakes.
For Crakes, he says prevention comes down to education and common sense. "If you're not thinking, those are the type of accidents that can happen and can hurt somebody or kill several people or take out huge communities," he said.
The Whittier Fire burned close to 18,500 acres and wasn't fully contained until October 5, 2017.
No criminal charges have been filed, and due to the age of the driver and no additional details of the investigation will be made public at this time, said Los Padres National Forest officials.