Smoking & Fire Safety
By Vice President / Lieutenant Scot Best
September 11, 2023

Smoking materials, including cigarettes, pipes, and cigars, are the leading cause of fire deaths. If you smoke in your home, you put your entire household at greater risk of fire. The same can be said for smoking in the outdoors and in public spaces. Between 2015 and 2019, fire departments responded to 651 structure fires started by cigarettes, resulting in over $15 million worth of property damage.

Smoking materials, including cigarettes, pipes, and cigars, started an estimated 17,200 home structure fires reported to U.S. fire departments in 2014. These fires caused 570 deaths, 1,140 injuries and $426 million in direct property damage. Smoking materials caused 5% of reported home fires, 21% of home fire deaths, 10% of home fire injuries, and 6% of the direct property damage.

Smoking Safety:
- If you smoke, use only “fire-safe” cigarettes. All 50 U.S. states require cigarettes sold to be “fire-safe,” that is, have sharply reduced ignition strength or ability to start fires. The laws are considered principally responsible for the decline in smoking material fire deaths.
- Never smoke in bed. Mattresses and bedding can catch on fire easily. Do not smoke in bed because you might fall asleep with a lit cigarette.
- If you smoke, smoke outside. Most deaths result from fires that started in living rooms, family rooms and dens, or in bedrooms.
- Keep cigarettes, lighters, matches, and other smoking materials up high out of the reach of children, in a locked cabinet.

Put It Out:
- Use a deep, sturdy ashtray. Place it away from anything that can burn.
- Do not discard cigarettes in vegetation such as mulch, potted plants or landscaping, peat moss, dried grasses, leaves, or other things that could ignite easily.
- Before you throw away butts and ashes, make sure they are out, and dousing in water or sand is the best way to do that.

Smoking and Medical Oxygen:
Never smoke, and never allow anyone to smoke, where medical oxygen is used. Medical oxygen can cause materials to ignite more easily and make fires burn at a faster rate than normal. It can make an existing fire burn faster and hotter.

Fires have occurred while e-cigarettes were being used, the battery was being charged, or the device was being transported. The main cause of the fires and explosions is failure of the lithium-ion batteries. Battery failures have led to small explosions. Never leave charging e-cigarettes unattended. E-cigarettes should be used with caution.

Ridge VFD reminds you that smoking material fires are preventable. Be safe. Have an escape plan.