Dsicarded Cigarettes Causing ProblemsFriday, June 29, 2007
Once again Oregonians are being warned that it could be a difficult wildfire season. What many area residents seem to forget is that when fire conditions are high in the Oregon woods, they are high in area neighborhoods as well. That is why officials of the Salem Fire Department, and the Keizer Fire District would like to remind residents to be extremely careful with fire and the things that start fires, especially at this dry time of the year.
Bill Holmstrom and Jim Trett, Public Information Officers of the two agencies, noted that more and more residents are not smoking inside their homes; instead they are going out on the patio of their home or the balcony of their apartment to smoke. When they are done, they flip their cigarette butt into the bark dust or drying grass surrounding their residence and go inside. The cigarette smolders, sometimes for several hours, and then ignites into a fire. People should also be aware of what they are using for an ash tray when smoking. Firefighters recently responded to a residence where the occupant had used a plastic ash tray as an ash tray. The basket, not intended for use as an ash tray, ignited and caused damage to the porch of the home.
Trett and Holmstrom said the problem is fire can smolder for days in bark dust and dry grass. While the fire is in this smoldering state it can “creep” under the bark dust or grass in gopher tunnels and mouse holes for several hundred feet before breaking out into a free burning fire. So it is not unheard of for firefighters to be called to put out a grass or bark dust fire and then having to go back several hours later to extinguish another fire some distance away from where the original fire was located.
Another concern to area fire officials is children misusing fire. Bill Holmstrom said a child playing with fire is always a big problem, but it’s even worse during this time of the year when conditions are dry outside where children are not always as closely supervised by adults. Holmstrom said children playing with fire drop matches they think are out in dry combustible material and leave the area and before long a fire breaks out.
Trett noted another big problem is smokers discarding cigarette butts from vehicles along roadways. Trett cited an incident where he was following a car exiting the freeway. Trett said he saw the driver throw a cigarette from the window that threw sparks when it hit the road and then rolled into the dry grass along the roadway. Trett said he just shook his head and stopped to make sure the cigarette butt was removed form the area. Motorists are reminded that there is a $500 fine for throwing burning items from a car.
Here are some suggestions to be sure you are not responsible for a tragedy:
- Smokers need to be aware of what happens to their cigarette remains.
- Have ash trays available and be sure to use them.
- At picnics and small gatherings have a group ash tray or can and
make sure it is used by everyone who smokes.
- No one should ignore smoke coming from bushes or landscaping in town or in rural areas. Remember, at this time of year smoke is not your friend.
- Take some time to look around your residence and identify conditions that could present a fire hazard and fix them. Make sure landscaping is well watered and not to close to the house.
Taking these steps will help to assure that everyone will have a fire safe summer.