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Safety Tips

Safety Tips

Safety Tip: Don’t Smoke? Smoking Fires Can Still Impact You

The statistics are grim. In 2018, every significant residential fire in the Spokane Valley Fire Department service area has been caused by the improper disposal of smoking materials. In fact, with one exception, every residential fire fatality in our community since 2015 was caused by improperly discarded smoking materials such as cigarettes, cigars and ashes.

Central Park Condo Fire
A two-alarm fire at the Central Park Condos on August 19 was caused by an improperly discarded cigarette.

Don’t smoke? Fires caused by smoking materials can still impact you, especially if you live in multi-family dwellings like apartments, condos, townhomes, or mobile homes in close proximity to your neighbor. Many of the fires caused by smoking materials this year (2018) not only threatened the life of the smoker and their family, but the lives and property of neighbors living next to them, including:

  • January 26: a woman smoking while on medical oxygen caught her apartment on fire in the 500 block of N. Pines Road
  • March 14: a man smoking caught his apartment on fire when his cigarette ignited paper in the 9400 block of E. Montgomery Avenue
  • April 20: cigarettes improperly discarded on a deck caused a house fire in the 1100 block of N. Girard Road
  • July 29: cigarettes improperly discarded on a deck caused a house fire that completely destroyed a single-family home 1300 block of South Wright Drive in Liberty Lake, as well as threatening several nearby homes
  • August 19: an improperly discarded cigarette caused a 2-alarm fire at the 69-unit Central Park Condominiums in the 6000 block of East 6th Avenue. The fire claimed the life of the man who lived in the unit where the fire started. The fire also displaced families from the 15 adjacent condo units and caused significant fire damage to the property.

These fires were tragic for the individuals involved, all the more so because they were caused by human error and completely preventable.

If you do smoke, commit to becoming a “fire-safe smoker”. Follow these tips to prevent causing a fire:

  • Smoke outside. The most significant change you can make today to make your home safer is to always smoke outside. Many items in your home are flammable and can catch on fire if they come in contact with something hot, like matches, cigarette butts, ashes and joints.
  • Never smoke where you sleep. Mattresses, bedding, couches, and lounge chairs can catch fire easily. Do not smoke in bed or in other places where you typically sleep or take naps.
  • Extinguish smoking materials in an ashtray or a bucket with sand. Make sure to use sturdy metal, ceramic, or glass ashtrays that won’t tip over.
  • Potting soil is highly flammable!
  • Put smoking materials out; all the way out, every time. Don’t walk away from lit smoking materials. Put water on the ashes and butts to make sure that they are really out before you put them in the trash.
  • Never smoke around medical oxygen. Medical oxygen can explode if a flame or spark is near. Even if the oxygen is turned off, it can still catch fire. The use of medical oxygen creates a super-oxygenated environment; the air, carpet, fabric in the home, as well as the clothing, hair, and skin of the person using medical oxygen become saturated with oxygen, making everything more flammable.

Change occurs when knowledge meets action. You are a key component to reducing the number of fire incidents experienced in our community due to improperly discarded smoking materials. The Spokane Valley Fire Department encourages you to share this important fire safety information with your family, friends, and neighbors – especially if they smoke. As always, make sure that your home has working smoke alarms that are less than 10 years old, make a fire escape plan, and practice it. You could save a life.

Did you Know?


  • You can sign up for a station tour. Great for small groups.
  • You should replace the batteries in your smoke alarms twice a year.
  • Creating a defensible space with regards to wildfires could just save your home or property.

Commissioner Patrick Burch

Board Member Since: July 18, 2016
Current term expires: December 31, 2025

Commissioner Burch was appointed to the Board of Fire Commissioners in July 2016 to fill an unexpired term and has served continuously since that time. He became a volunteer member of the Department’s CERT Team in 2008 and later served as a team leader/member of Fire Corps.

“I admire the Spokane Valley Fire Department’s focus on continuous improvement. Our dedication to the community, fiscal responsibility and the fact that we are one of the few accredited fire departments in the State of Washington all make SVFD great!”

Note: As the individual appointed to this non-partisan position, Commissioner Burch was elected by voters in November 2017.

Commissioner Mike Kester

Board Member Since: January 1, 2020
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2025

Commissioner Mike Kester was elected to the Board of Fire Commissioners in November, 2019.

Commissioner Kester grew up in the Spokane area and has a deep appreciation for just how fortunate we all are to live in this beautiful area. He believes that being involved in this community is not something to take lightly.

His background includes joining the United States Coast Guard (U.S.C.G) after high school and serving on a port firefighting boat doing search and rescue in Portland, Oregon.  After the Coast Guard, he attended the University of Montana earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Resource Management.  He then went on to work for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, serving in their Parks Department.

Spokane was the next step in his career. He  went to work for the Burlington Santa Fe Railroad and the next 22 years was spent as a conductor moving freight. Commissioner Kester  retired in 2010 after a workplace injury and now,  he and his wife enjoy making meals for World War II Veterans, helping out at the YMCA ,and providing meals for those in need.

“In the 25 years of being a resident of the Spokane Valley the professionalism of the SVFD has inspired me to take an active part in bettering our community. We have one of the best fire departments in the whole Pacific Northwest. My wife and I have 3 children and 5 grandchildren. I have dedicated my life to keeping them safe.  I want to apply that dedication to our community.  Keeping us all safe is a goal we should all aspire to in one way or another. Communication within the department and with the public is, and always will be one of my primary goals.”

Commissioner John Guarisco

Board Member since: August 27, 2018
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2027

Commissioner Guarisco was appointed to the Board of Fire Commissioners in August 2018 to fill an unexpired term and has served continuously since that time. Commissioner Guarisco founded Marjoni Marketing in 2004 and in 2010 merged with MDI marketing. He then pursued Real Estate, earning his license and now, currently serves the greater Spokane area as a licensed Realtor. He has long been active in the community and has won numerous awards during his career including the Volunteer of the Year (2014) and the Community Caring Award (2010) from the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce.  He is a member of the Greater Spokane Valley Rotary Club and holds an AA degree from Spokane Falls Community College.

Note: As the individual appointed to this non-partisan position, Commissioner Guarisco was elected by voters in November 2019.

Commissioner Bill Anderson

Board Member since: January 1, 2000
Current six year term expires: December 31, 2023

Commissioner Anderson served our community as a Spokane Valley Fire Department firefighter for 29 years. Throughout his career, he worked as a firefighter, dispatcher and engineer before he was promoted and became an officer. He was Station Captain of Millwood Station 2 when he retired in 1999. During his years as firefighter, he was an active leader of Spokane Valley Firefighters Local 876 and served as a trustee on the Washington State Council of Firefighters for 25 years.

“It’s important to me that we continue the good service we’ve always given the people. We’ve accomplished a lot and are pulling in the same direction to get better. I’m very proud of the Spokane Valley Fire Department.”

Commissioner Brian Asmus

Board Member Since: June 14, 2021
Current term expires: 

Commissioner Brian Asmus was appointed to the Spokane Valley Fire Department Board of Fire Commissioners in 2021.

Commissioner Asmus is the former Liberty Lake Police Chief and current Director of Safety and Security at Central Valley School District (CVSD).

“Brian Asmus brings extensive Public Safety leadership experience, and a long history of being actively engaged in his community to his new role as a SVFD Commissioner,” said SVFD Fire Chief, Bryan Collins. “During his time as a Police Chief, Brian interacted with SVFD firefighters and administrators on a regular basis, making him very familiar with our structure, standing within our communities, as well as with many of our current SVFD board members and personnel. Brian’s experience working and collaborating on regional issues aligns nicely with SVFD’s philosophy and will help us continue to be a catalyst for local and regional excellence and innovation.”