SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Rigo and Luzili Rodriguez were driving home on Highway 101 Monday night when they came face-to-face with dangerous sparks on the road ahead.
A truck in front of them was dragging a loose chain on the freeway, sending sparks left and right. Thinking quickly, the Rodriguezes called 911 and started filming on a cell phone. With the hot, dry and windy weather across Santa Barbara County creating dangerous fire conditions, a single spark could find the dry brush on the side of the freeway and ignite a destructive wildfire.
The Rodriguezes called 911 but continued to follow the truck driver. When the driver got near Buellton, the Rodriguezes—seeing no CHP officers in pursuit—decided to signal for the driver to pull over. They then explained what was happening.
“He was really thankful that we pulled him over to let him know what was going on under his truck,” Luzili said. “So he looked under his truck and saw it was a chain that went loose."
Vehicles have caused recent wildfires across the state. The 2015 Cuesta Grade fire was ignited by sparks from chains being dragged along the road.
“Especially right now, anything can catch fire,” Luzili said. “Everything's dry. So it's really important that we acknowledge and we do something about it."
Joel Asmussen of the California Highway Patrol says sparks from vehicles are a fire threat that a lot of people don't think about.
“It does happen more often than most people think,” Asmussen said. “People whether they are paying attention to it or not leave their chains dragging on the road and unfortunately it can cause a wildfire."
Asmussen suggests simply taking the extra time before you drive to make sure your trailer is properly attached and that nothing from your vehicle could drag on the pavement and potentially start a fire.