NEWS | Aug. 24, 2020

Smoking in bed is the leading cause of fire deaths

By Richard S. Campos JBSA Fire Emergency Services

In the United States, smoking materials are the leading cause of fire deaths, as reported by the U.S. Fire Administration. Some significant deterrents in combatting these unnecessary deaths are smoke alarms, smoldering 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:

Smoking safety:

  • 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, and then ignite into fire.
  • Do not leave cigarettes, cigars or pipes unattended. Pull 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 a “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 that may have been 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.

Kids and fire safety:

  • 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.

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.

Electronic cigarettes:

  • 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.

General fire safety tips:

  • 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.

Fast facts:

  • 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 National Fire Prevention Agency website at http://www.nfpa.org/education or contact the Joint Base San Antonio Fire Prevention Offices at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston at 210-221-2727, JBSA-Lackland at 210-671-2921 or JBSA-Randolph at 210-652-6915.