California officials say getting your car a tune-up can help prevent the next big fire

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) -- With fire vigilance being the new normal in California, local firefighters are warning about a hidden fire danger lurking inside people's cars.

“This car needed brakes. They were worn down to the point where they needed to be replaced," said Matt Farley as he worked on a car at El Dorado Hills Car Care.

Cal Fire officials say it’s an important repair to make, especially if drivers want to keep firefighters from having to confront major fires started by an unnecessary spark.

"If the brakes got down to the point that they were metal to metal, there would be a chance for that. Under normal circumstances, the brake pads have the friction material and that's what wears away when you're hitting your brakes,” Farley explained. “The backing is steel and with the rotors being steel also, if this steel's wearing on here, the grindings that come off of there could be hot and could create a spark condition."

Cal Fire crews in El Dorado, Nevada and Placer counties have been up against several small vegetation fires in the last 10 days, all of which were ignited by poorly maintained cars.

"Your car starts to smoke, it doesn't pass smog. These are all things that can be checked preemptively and prevent that fire," said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Steve Mueller.

Farley said he tells his customers to check their stopping power at least every 20,000 miles, keeping driving habits in mind.

Catalytic converters, which are supposed to help the environment by reducing vehicle emissions, can also be a big threat to the environment in the form of fire, especially if they are not tied to dashboard oxygen sensors.

Converters from 1996 and before that are still rolling down the road could rust out and dump hot filtering pellets right onto dry grass. That’s what recently happened seven times in one day between Newcastle and Auburn.

“We were able to catch those seven fires, all very small that day, but the results could have been different on a different day with different weather," Mueller told FOX40.

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