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Home : News : News
NEWS | Aug. 7, 2017

Careless smoking can lead to death and destruction

By Richard Campos Joint Base San Antonio Fire Inspector/Life Safety Educator

In the United States, smoking materials are the leading cause of fire deaths. More than 4,000 Americans die each year in fires and approximately 20,000 are injured, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

Some significant deterrents in combatting these unnecessary deaths are using smoke alarms and smolder-resistant bedding and upholstered furniture.

Smoking material fires are preventable. Here are a few safety tips to keep you and your family from becoming a fire statistic:


  • Never smoke in bed. Replace mattresses made prior to the 1973 Federal Mattress Flammability Standard.

  • Do not put ashtrays on the arms of sofas or chairs.

  • Use large, deep ashtrays with wide lips. While smaller ashtrays may be more attractive, they are not safe. Cigarettes can roll off the edge and the ashes can be easily be blown away.

  •  Water down your ashes. Empty ashtrays into either the toilet or an airtight metal container. Warm ashes dumped in waste cans can smolder for hours, then ignite into fire.

  •  Do not leave cigarettes, cigars or pipes unattended. Put out all smoking materials before you walk away.

  •  If you begin to feel drowsy while watching television or reading, extinguish your smoking materials in a safe container.

  •  Close a matchbook before striking and hold it away from your body. Set your cigarette lighter on low flame to prevent burns.

  •  If friends or relatives who smoke have paid you a visit, be sure to check on the floor and around chair cushions for ashes dropped accidentally.

  •  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.


  • Store matches and lighters up high and out of reach of children’s sight and reach, preferably in a locked cabinet.

  • Do not put ashtrays in a location where children or pets could knock them over.


  • 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. Battery failures have led to small explosions.

  • Never leave charging e-cigarettes unattended. E-cigarettes should be used with caution. 


  • Keep children away from open flames and electrical receptacles.

  • Have a smoke alarm on every level of your home and make sure your smoke is maintained and working properly

  • Keep your emergency numbers near the telephone.

  • Always call the fire department for any fire, even if the fire has been completely extinguished.

  • Have a fire evacuation plan and practice, practice, practice it with your family!



  • The risk of dying in a home structure fire caused by smoking materials rises with age.

  • One out of four fatal victims of smoking-material fires is not the smoker whose cigarette started the fire.


For more information about careless smoking visit the U.S. Fire Administration website at, or contact any fire prevention office. At JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, call 210-221-2727, JBSA-Lackland at 210-671-2921 or JBSA-Randolph at 210-652-6915.