My home state of California has made national headlines in the past couple weeks with the Holy Fire scorching nearly 23,000 acres and the Carr Fire eating up an astounding 207,000 acres of land as of the writing of this article, making this the one of the worst fire seasons on record. With friends and family members of mine near several evacuation zones, this one hit pretty close to home for me. One thing that comes to mind when I hear of these fires starting is my questioning if the root cause might have been avoidable human actions. One in particular that I see all the time and worry about…cigarette butts being flipped out the window!
The main human causes listed at nps.gov are what bring me to my topic of discussion, since it lists human causes as “unattended campfires, burning of debris, intentional acts of arson and negligently discarded cigarettes.” Having witnessed many fires in my 30+ years of living in a fire-prone desert/mountain area of California, I think it would be safe to assume that discarded cigarette butts have played a large part of many of the fires I have seen here growing up. One deducing factor in all of this is the tendency for the fires to usually break out along routes that are crossed by arterial highways and freeways. It is daily that I see still-lit cigarettes flipped out the window from fellow trucker’s cabs while I am out on the road, especially during the dark hours when sparks can be seen when they hit the asphalt. Even back when I used to smoke 15+ years ago, I was always careful to never flip a cigarette butt out the window, since it only takes one small, “ lit cherry" on the end of a butt to turn some dry roadside grass into a raging wildfire!
Though I have not smoked for a long time, I honor everyone else’s right to choose whether they want to or not. If you do choose to smoke however, it is your responsibility to dispose of it properly in a manner that extinguishes it when done. I know that if I was still partaking in lighting up occasionally, I would not be able to live with the fact that I might have been the root cause to a fire that might potentially cause vast amounts of damage, or even worse take human lives along with it! Use an ashtray, an old soda can, or even a cup with a little water in it and discard the contents in the trash where it belongs! Also remember that where fines are applicable for littering, a cigarette butt counts as litter too and carries with it the same fine as throwing trash out the window. Like Smokey the Bear was famous for saying during my growing up, “Only you can prevent forest fires!” Do your part of you smoke to keep fire season under control while out on the road!