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Smoking materials a frequent cause of fires

Smoking materials a frequent cause of fires
Posted on 07/18/2018

In 2017, the Lenexa Fire Department responded to 13 fire-related incidents in the city believed to have been the result of careless discarding of smoking materials. These fires resulted in more than $1.2 million in property loss.

Careless discarding of smoking materials is commonly found to be a leading cause of fires in Lenexa homes, apartments and businesses. These fires are the leading cause of fire deaths throughout the nation in residential settings. Fires caused by carelessly discarded smoking materials are easily prevented.

Whether you smoke or not, you can take an active role in ensuring smoking safety by following these tips from the Lenexa Fire Department.

Ash tray safety

Dispose of smoking material into an approved non-combustible (metal or clay) container. Fill the container with sand or water to help extinguish the materials.

Make sure there is always water in the container and the sand can be seen (not obstructed by too many cigarette butts). Never use potting soil-filled containers or planters for cigarette disposal.

Do not leave ashtrays or smoking materials on combustible surfaces including furniture, vegetation and combustible ground cover like mulch.

Before disposing of the materials, ensure they are completely out and cool to the touch. Play it safe, and soak cigarette butts before disposing of them.

Empty the cool smoking materials regularly to reduce the buildup of materials. The smoking materials can be ignited by the next cigarette butt 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.

Check rooms for potential fire hazards

Look under cushions for smoldering embers when smoking on furniture. A burning cigarette can smolder between the cushions of upholstered furniture and go unnoticed for as long as five hours.

Before you leave an area or room where people have been smoking, check for embers, cigarette butts or matches. Make sure they are fully extinguished or remove them at once.

Prevent mulch fires

Landscape mulch fires are caused by improper disposal of smoking materials into the dry, fine materials used to decorate our homes, apartments and businesses. These fires have the potential to do a lot of damage to surrounding buildings and structures.

The LFD highly recommends using noncombustible ground cover in areas susceptible to careless disposal of smoking materials, including along sidewalks, near business entry points, patios, and porches throughout apartment complexes and other public spaces.

Help to protect elderly, handicapped or impaired smokers

When a person's physical ability is impaired, there is a higher chance of clothing catching fire from a cigarette.

Keep an eye on persons who smoke, and make sure they use deep ashtrays. Never smoke in a home where oxygen is used. Oxygen can be explosive and makes fire burn hotter and faster.

More advice for apartment-dwellers and landlords

Never smoke within 10 feet of your building, and stay away from things that burn like mulch, planters and plants. Let your apartment manager or landlord know if you see people improperly disposing of cigarettes. Landlords should develop smoking guidelines for their properties and enforce these rules. They may also consider no-smoking policies. It's a good idea to provide your tenants designated smoking areas and suitable  disposal containers.

These safety warnings pertain to not only cigarettes but also pipes, cigars and any other forms of smoking used. Smoking material fires aren't limited to tobacco smoke, either. Be safe with all types of smoking.

Published July 18, 2018