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