Smoking materials cause fires

Columbus firefighters were called to three fires Friday that were believed to have been caused by improperly discarded smoking materials.

At 9:02 p.m. Friday, firefighters were sent to 803 Stonegate Drive after a passerby saw flames coming from a second-story patio deck at the Stonegate Apartments, said Capt. Mike Wilson, Columbus Fire Department spokesman.

As the fire shifted toward the building’s roof and attic, firefighters extinguished the fire from the exterior below the burning balcony and brought the fire under control. Not knowing if any occupants were inside the building, firefighters went through a locked apartment door to gain access to the apartment and learned the tenant was not at home, Wilson said.

Damage was limited to the exterior of the apartment, Wilson said.

Columbus Fire Department investigators said the fire began on the second floor deck after an overfilled device being used as an ashtray caught fire just outside the balcony’s sliding glass door, Wilson said.

The fire spread from this material to the building’s vinyl siding and continued to burn until firefighters arrived. Damages were estimated at $5,000. The cause of the fire has been ruled accidental due to improperly discarded smoking materials, Wilson said.

At 2:18 p.m. Friday, firefighters were sent to a parking lot behind Qdoba Mexican Restaurant, 1665 N. National Road. Mulch was on fire there and damaged the base of a small tree, Wilson said. The cause was believed to be an improperly discarded cigarette.

At 12:42 p.m. Friday, firefighters were sent to the entrance of Clifty Crossing Shopping Center, 1170 N. National Road, also about a mulch fire, caused by an improperly discarded cigarette, Wilson said.

Columbus Fire Department asked residents to remember the proper steps for discarding smoking materials. If you smoke, place butts in a large, deep, non-tip ashtray. Never place ashtrays on furniture. Dip discarded butts in water to make sure they are completely out before disposing. Empty an ashtray often. Consider discarding smoking material into an aluminum can or paint can as long as the container is made of non-combustible material. Never store discarded smoking material containers near combustible materials. Never discard cigarettes from a vehicle as this can cause a vegetation fire.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.