Lethbridge fire department issues reminder after multiple blazes caused by smoking materials

Firefighters battle a blaze in south Lethbridge on Apr. 5 2022. Courtesy: Julie White

Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services is once again reminding residents about the importance of properly disposing smoking materials like cigarettes.

“So far this year, from what I can see — ballpark — we’re probably close to four to five million dollars in structure loss here in the city,” fire prevention officer Troy Hicks said.

“I believe we’ve had three or more single-family dwellings, but we’ve also had a few multi-family dwellings too.”

Hicks says smoking products like cigarettes and cigars should be extinguished in a non-flammable container filled with sand or water and they should never be thrown from the window of a vehicle.

“Everyday, I drive home from the downtown and I see at least one or two vehicles throwing their cigarettes out driving up Scenic (Drive) and we all know how dry it is here in the city in the coulees,” Hicks said.

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“I’d hate to see one of those cigarette butts start a fire in the coulees. That’ll blow right up that hill and into the residential area very fast.

“With all the dollar losses we’ve had in the city we’ve had no injuries, thank goodness. However it’s only a matter of time.”

Using a planter as an ashtray can start a blaze, as potting soil contains flammable ingredients like peat moss, shredded wood or bark, Styrofoam, vermiculite and chemical fertilizers.

It can also insulate cigarette butts, allowing them to smolder.

Hicks adds it’s important to ensure anything burning inside your home, like candles or incense, is fully extinguished if you are leaving.

“We just need to be smart. You want to make sure they’re not near anything combustible which means it’ll start on fire and pay attention,” Hicks said.

“What I always tell people — whether I’m teaching extinguisher training or doing any kind of public education — your home doesn’t need to smell good if you’re not there.”

Further fire prevention information is available on the city’s website.

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