I-80 fire threatens home, slows traffic

Hot catalytic converter investigated as cause
By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Columnist
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A roadside fire off Interstate 80 west of Auburn threatened at least one structure today.

The fire was reported shortly after 2 p.m. off eastbound I-80 between Auburn and Newcastle. The fire caught hold in dried grass and brush at the side of the freeway and traveled up a hill in the direction of a home about 100 yards away.

Firefighters were able to stop the fire's spread about 30 yards from the freeway's edge. By that time it had burned an estimated two-thirds of an acre.

Traffic was slowed after one lane of the interstate was taken up by emergency vehicles, with the backup spreading past Newcastle all the way into Rocklin. The emergency response squeezed afternoon traffic toward Auburn into two lanes.

Temperatures had reached 97 degrees in Auburn at the time of the fire. An investigator at the scene found pieces of a catalytic converter, which indicated that tinder-dry grass had caught fire from the overheated vehicle part, Cal Fire spokeswoman Mary Eldridge said.

The safety message is to have your vehicle properly and never pull your vehicle off into dry grass, she said.

The owner of the house threatened by the fire helped slow and stop its spread by previously clearing brush and keeping grasses trimmed low, Eldridge said.