Careless disposal of smoking materials and cigarettes are the leading cause of fires in Bend. In 2016 alone Bend Fire Department responded to 84 fires caused by smoking materials, causing over $200,000 in damage. In 2017, we lost 9 homes to smoking materials and ZERO homes to wildfires. Over the past 10 years, Bend Fire Department responds to an average of 45 cigarette related fires a year, causing nearly $200,000 worth of damage for each year.
There are two main types of smoking material fires in Bend, those started on back decks and those in bark mulch. Both of these are caused by the improper disposal of smoking materials such as cigarette butts, ash and hot embers. By being alert to the fire hazards of smoking and taking safety precautions, a fire disaster can be prevented.
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General safety pertaining to smoking materialss:
- Dispose of smoking material into a non-combustible (metal or clay) container.
- Fill the container with sand or water to help extinguish the smoking materials but remember to ensure there is always water in the container and the sand can be seen/not obstructed by too many butts.
- Before disposing of the materials, ensure they are cool to the touch.
- Do not leave ash trays or smoking materials on combustible surfaces including furniture, vegetation and combustible ground cover.
- Empty the cool smoking materials regularly to reduce the buildup of materials. The smoking materials themselves can become the combustibles the next cigarette butt ignites if not emptied regularly.
- When cleaning ashtrays, fill them with water - then empty them in the trash can. Even when a cigarette appears to be extinguished, there is still a chance that it may be smoldering. If you empty an ashtray in a wastebasket containing paper or other combustibles without first ensuring they are cooled completely, the result could be a fire.
- Play it safe and soak cigarette butts before disposing them. Check under cushions for smoldering embers. A burning cigarette can smolder between the cushions of upholstered furniture and go unnoticed for as long as five hours!
- Before you leave a room where people have been smoking, carefully check between sofa and chair crevices and under cushions. Check for embers, cigarette butts or matches. Make sure they have not been smoldering and remove them at once.
- Help to protect elderly and handicapped smokers. When a person's physical ability is impaired, there is a greater chance of clothing catching fire from a cigarette. Keep a watchful eye on elderly and handicapped persons who smoke, making sure they use deep ashtrays.
- Keep matches and cigarette lighters away from children. Matches and lighters are tools for adults only. Store them up high where young children can't reach them. Teach kids to give any matches or lighters they find to adults.
Other safety considerations:
- Do not smoke within 25 feet of the building
- Smoke in areas away from things that burn, such as barkdust landscaping, combustible vegetation, and planters
- Safely dispose of cigarette butts in a non-combustible container filled with water or sand
- Let your housing manager know if you see people disposing cigarettes on the ground or in planters, or cigarette butts spilling out of ashtrays and containers
- Ask your landlord about no-smoking policies for your apartment complex
- Develop guidelines for smoking on your property and enforce them
- Provide designated smoking areas and suitable disposal containers
- Consider no-smoking policies
- Be alert and investigate unusual smoke smells
- Ensure your home has a good defensible space around it. Find more about wildfire safety by clicking here
- Take a “second look” to ensure smoking material has been properly disposed
- Use large, noncombustible ashtrays and keep them away from combustible furnishings, deck material, and vegetation
- Take an active role in ensuring smoking safety, whether you smoke or not
- Remind those who use home oxygen not to smoke
- Test your smoke alarms monthly
- Develop and practice a plan to escape your home
(Information provided in part courtesy of the City of Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department © 2013, Salem Fire Department, Smoke Free Fire Safe of Oregon and the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office © 2014)