British Columbia

Rash of cigarette butt fires frustrates Langford fire crews

As officials bring in a ban on campfires on most of Vancouver Island and the South Coast to prevent fires in the bush, urban firefighters are also sounding the alarm over careless behaviour.

People unwisely butting out in garden beds and urban greenspaces

Langford fire crews put up signs like this one at the site of fires caused by a cigarette butt. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

As officials bring in a ban on campfires on most of Vancouver Island and the South Coast to prevent fires in the bush, urban firefighters are also sounding the alarm over careless behaviour.

Fire crews in Langford, just outside Victoria, have responded to nearly half a dozen small fires in garden beds and urban greenspaces in the past week.

Nearly all of the fires were sparked by someone butting out their cigarette, said Lance Cavan, Langford's assistant fire chief.

"What we are finding with the new smoking rules is that it is pushing people away from the building," he said.

Warning signs

Far from ashtrays or cigarette disposal containers, Cavan says people are unwisely butting out in parched garden beds and green spaces.

"It's frustrating for us, because it's a drain on our resources to go out to these fires, because something else potentially could happen, and two to three firefighters are tied up digging around in a totally preventable fire situation."

In one case, Cavan says a fire that damaged a structure is believed to have started in a garden bed.

As in previous years, Langford Fire Rescue is fighting back with a campaign aimed at careless smokers.

The department puts up a lawn sign at the site of each fire.

The signs have slogans like "Langford Fire attended a preventable fire at this location" and "bark mulch and cigarette butts don't mix." 

Cavan says he hopes people get the message, particularly with the fire danger across most of Vancouver Island now rated as "high."

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