British Columbia

7 fires in 7 days caused by discarded cigarette butts in Langford, B.C.

Since June 19, a Vancouver Island fire department has been called to seven fires, all caused by the same thing —carelessly discarded cigarette butts. 

Fire officials in the Vancouver Island city urge smokers to be careful

Langford FIre Rescue puts up signs where staff has extinguished human-caused fires. Firefighters suggest noting a location and licence plate number of anyone seen tossing a cigarette out a car window. (Langford Fire Rescue)

Since June 19, a Vancouver Island fire department has been called to seven fires, all caused by the same thing: discarded cigarette butts. 

Paul Obersteller, fire prevention officer with Langford Fire Rescue, said he believes it's a combination of people tossing cigarette butts out the car window as they drive and people throwing them into garden beds. 

"You can't guarantee that a cigarette butt is ever going to be fully extinguished if [you] use a garden bed or a planter box," he told All Points West guest host Megan Thomas. 

He said he's seen many instances of people purposely using a garden bed as an ashtray, but a slight gust or change in temperature can ignite a smoldering cigarette butt. 

The fire department puts up signs at the site of fires caused by cigarette butts to make people more aware about how they're disposing of cigarettes. 

"There are other options besides just throwing it on the ground," Obersteller said, noting that portable ashtrays are available for purchase online or in local dollar stores.

Obersteller said ignorance to how fires start is to blame for continued calls about human-caused fires within the municipality. 

"I think people just kind of get in the routine ... of storing their butts on the ground. They might not just be aware that this is going to cause a fire," he said. 

Obersteller is asking anyone who sees someone tossing a cigarette butt out the window or putting it out in an inappropriate spot to text or call *5555 which will direct them to the B.C. Forest Service. 

He also said that people should write down a license plate if the person is driving and note the location. 

"If you're seeing somebody walking down the street, maybe give him a polite reminder that that could cause a fire if their cigarette butts get into the garden because they might not realize it."

With files from All Points West


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