Smoke Alarms Save Lives

Put Butts in Their Place

Recent Fires are Cause for Alarm

Fire-Safe (reduced-ignition) Cigarettes Could Save Lives!

'Legislation will be a Top Priority'

Several recent fires associated with improperly discarded smoking materials have resulted in several deaths, injuries, dozens of residents being displaced, and have caused millions of dollars in damage. Outside fires involving decks and/or the combination of landscaping mulch in combination with discarded smoking materials also have been particularly troublesome.

Of course we hope that people don't smoke in the first place, but if they choose to do so we suggest that they be careful when disposing of cigarette butts and other smoking materials. Use appropriate containers, ie. ashtrays or other non-combustible receptacles. Designate safe smoking areas and isolate those areas preferably away from buildings and away from anything combustible such as landscaping mulch, wood decks, furniture, etc. Be careful if smoking and using alcohol. Do not smoke if you are drowsy or tired.

If you smell smoke or any other peculiar burning odor - call the fire department immediately by dialing 911.

A total of four (4) Montgomery County residents were killed in residential fires in the year 2006 compared to five (5) in 2005. In the past two years, seven (7) out of nine (9) residential fire fatalities have been the result of careless smoking and discarded smoking materials. Most recently, Mrs. Leona Schwartz, age 83, a resident of the Highland House Apartment in Chevy Chase died from burns and smoke inhalation as result of fire that occurred on November 24, 2006. Careless smoking was to blame for the fire. Prior to Mrs. Schwartz two (2) others died in residential fires started by cigarettes, including Mary Louise Harrington, age 78, of Kensington who died on August 27 and on February 26, 2006 Mr. Francis Richard Deleo, age 84, of Rockville died of a result of injuries he sustained on February 9, 2006. Mrs. Harrington and Mr. Deleo were killed in fires caused by careless smoking and improperly discarded smoking materials.

A familiar trend has occurred in the last two years. Senior citizens are dying in fires caused by careless smoking or improperly discarded smoking materials (7 deaths) and cooking (2 deaths). In 2006 three (3) out of four (4) residential fire fatalities were caused by smoking materials and involved senior citizens over the age of 78. The single other fatal fire was cooking related and killed a 56 year old man. The previous year, in 2005, five (5) senior citizens over age 75 died in fires, four (4) of which were started by careless smoking and/or improperly discarded smoking materials.

Improperly discarded smoking materials is one of the leading causes of fire and contributes to millions of dollars in property damage, including well over $10 million in total loss during the last three years in Montgomery County alone (including nearly $2 million in May '06). Smoking materials (i.e., cigarettes, cigars, pipes, etc.) are the leading cause of fire deaths the last couple of years in Montgomery County and in the United States.

Last legislative session (2006), Maryland considered legislation that advocates reduced-ignition strength ("fire-safe") cigarettes. California recently passed legislation mandating the sale of fire-safe cigarettes joining New York, Vermont, and all of Canada and several other states in requiring the use of such cigarettes. Many other states, including our own (Maryland), are considering and are working to pass similar bills this year. Reduced-ignition (fire-safe) cigarettes will be Montgomery County Fire Chief Tom Carr's highest legislative priority.

A recent preliminary report out of New York showed that the number of deaths caused by cigarette-ignited fires dropped significantly after implementation of that state's fire-safe cigarette requirement. In addition, a recent Harvard School of Public Health study found that the New York mandate had no negative effect on cigarette sales in that state and no significant effect on the health risks of smoking from the new cigarette technology. The research shows that consumers have accepted fire-safe cigarettes. In fact, the Harvard researchers found no valid reason why cigarette manufacturers should not sell fire-safe cigarettes all across the country.

Smoking Safety Tips

Having a working smoke alarm more than doubles one's chances of surviving a fire. A combination of a residential sprinkler and working smoke alarms almost guarantee that a person will survive a fire even.