SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah — Investigators confirmed to FOX 13 they have recovered pieces of catalytic converter from the ignition sources of the Parleys Canyon Fire.
The pieces were collected as evidence as authorities continued to search for the vehicle believed to be responsible.
“It was a catalytic converter that sparked a few separate fires along I-80 that eventually grew together to the main portion of the fire,” said Sierra Hellstrom, a spokesperson for the Northern Utah Interagency Fire Management Team.
Witnesses provided fire investigators with a vehicle description, Hellstrom said. The Utah Highway Patrol is assisting with locating it.
The Parleys Canyon Fire has torched hundreds of acres and forced the evacuation of thousands.
Faulty and failing catalytic converters can be a regular cause of wildfires. Pieces eject out of the exhaust at temperatures up to 1,500 degrees and can spark a fire on dry grasses.
“There are numerous fires every year where catalytic converter pieces are ejected out of the exhaust system along the side of the road. The vehicle even doing it might not even notice it at times,” said Jason Curry with the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands.
It can be prevented with regular vehicle maintenance.
“Make sure that you have a muffler, a catalytic converter in proper working order. Make sure you have brakes that are properly maintained,” Curry said.
In 2018, the Utah State Legislature removed the requirement for most vehicles to have regular safety inspections. Emissions inspections are still required.
If the person responsible is found, there is the potential for them to be liable. The state has gotten more aggressive recently about recovering wildfire costs, even in cases of negligence.
This particular wildfire could cost millions.
“A lot of it will depend on us first finding the person and the cooperation after that,” Hellstrom told FOX 13.
With Utah’s ongoing drought emergency and extremely high fire danger, Curry said it was important for people to be cautious.
“Utahns have been using great fire sense. And we encourage more of it. We can’t afford to have more fires like this because resources are spread really thin,” he said.