NEWS | July 27, 2021

Fires involving smoking materials are preventable

By Jessie R. Moreno Fire Protection Inspector, 902nd CES

Home is the place where we are supposed to feel the safest. However, home is where most structure fires, deaths, and injuries due to smoking materials occur.

In fact, smoking materials are the leading cause of fire deaths. These fires are preventable.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, or NFPA, from 2021 to 2016, an estimated annual average of 18,100 (5%) reported home structure fires started by smoking materials, including cigarettes, pipes, and cigars,  killed an average of 590 (23%) people annually, injured 1,130 (10%) per year, and caused $476 million in direct property damage (7%) per year.

One in 20 home (5%) home structure fires were started by smoking materials. These fires caused almost one in four (23%) home fire deaths, and one in 10 (10%) home fire injuries.

Smoking was the leading cause of home fire deaths for the five-year period of 2012-2016. Overall, one of every 31 home smoking material fires resulted in death.

The leading area of origin for home smoking fires in 2012-2016 was an exterior balcony or open porch (18%).

Forty-three percent of the deaths were caused by fires that started in the living room. One-third (34%) were caused by fires that began in the bedroom.

The NFPA has developed a number of safety tips to hopefully reduce these tragic numbers:

Smoking safety

  • If you smoke, use only fire-safe cigarettes.
  • If you smoke, smoke outside. Most deaths result from fires that started in living rooms, family rooms, dens and bedrooms.
  • Keep cigarettes, lighters, matches, and other smoking materials out of the reach of children or in a locked cabinet.
  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Be alert. Do not smoke after taking medicine that makes you drowsy and tired.

Put it out

  • Use deep sturdy ashtrays. Place it away from anything that can burn.
  • Do not discard cigarettes in vegetation such as mulch, potted plants or landscape, peat moss, dried grasses, leaves or other things that could ignite easily.
  • Before you throw away butts and ashes make sure they are out. Also, dousing in water or sand is the best way to ensure that they are in fact completely out.

Smoking and medical oxygen

  • 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.
  • Of the 15 e-cigarette incidents reported in 2015, 13 were described as explosions and two as ignitions. Five incidents resulted in fires, three of which occurred while users were in the act of smoking and two while batteries were being charged. Twelve incidents resulted in injuries requiring medical treatment.

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 smoking and home fire safety, visit the NFPA website at www.nfpa.org/education or contact the fire prevention offices at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston at 210-221-2727, at JBSA-Lackland at 210-671-2921, or at JBSA-Randolph at 210-652-6915.

(Editor’s note: Images and information contained in this article were reproduced in whole or part from www.nfpa.org.)