Throwing away a cigarette butt after finishing smoking may not cause a smoker to think twice, but there’s good reason to do so. Consider these statistics from the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting System:
Each year, about 7,600 fires in residential buildings in the United States are related to smoking materials, such as cigarettes, cigars and pipes.
Of those fires, about 93 percent — or 7,068 — are considered nonconfined, which means they spread beyond their point of origin.
Of the nonconfined fires in residential buildings, 67 percent occurred because of abandoned or discarded smoking materials or products, primarily cigarettes.
The Aug. 8 fire that severely damaged a Fox Pointe apartment building in Columbus is an example of these statistics and a reminder about the dangers of smoking and discarding cigarette butts.
A cigarette butt placed into a homemade, plastic receptacle for smoking materials on a back patio burned through the receptacle and accidentally caught the Columbus apartment’s vinyl siding on fire, which ignited a larger blaze.
The good news was that the 14 residents of the building were not harmed. However, damage to the eight-unit building was estimated at $750,000, and the occupants will have to move into new places to live.
In cases where smoking is permitted, the risk of fire is inherent. However, the risk can be mitigated.
The United States Fire Administration and National Fire Protection Association recommend these strategies to reduce smoking fires:
If you smoke, smoke outside.
Whenever you smoke, use deep, wide, sturdy ashtrays. Ashtrays should be set on something sturdy and hard to ignite.
Before you throw out butts and ashes, make sure they are out. Dowsing in water or sand is the best way to do that.
Check under furniture cushions and in other places people smoke for cigarette butts that may have fallen out of sight.
Smoking should not be allowed in a home where medical oxygen is used.
To prevent a deadly cigarette fire, you have to be alert. You won’t be if you are sleepy, have been drinking or have taken medicine or other drugs.
Residential fires caused by cigarette butts and other smoking materials will continue to occur, but if these tips help prevent at least some future fires they will have made an impact. However, such strategies are only as effective as the diligence shown by people to follow them.