Abnormally Dry Weather, Cigarettes Create Fire Danger

by Katie Pyzyk April 17, 2012 at 3:58 pm 4,512 49 Comments

The warm, abnormally dry weather may be enjoyable for many people trying to partake in outdoor activities, but it’s causing a headache for firefighters.

Due to our area being about four inches below normal in rainfall for the year, more small fires have been sparking. Arlington County Fire Department Captain Gregg Karl said the county isn’t experiencing as many brush fires as some neighboring areas, but there have actually been a lot of mulch fires in the past few weeks.

According to Karl, most of the trouble has been with smokers trying to extinguish their cigarettes in plant boxes or areas with mulch. In many cases, the cigarettes smolder on the extremely dry, flammable material and then start a fire. Even drivers throwing cigarettes out of car windows has been causing trouble, because there’s mulch on many of the street medians in Arlington. Smokers are reminded to make sure cigarettes are completely extinguished, and to only use approved receptacles to dispose of them.

Even if we get some rain this weekend, it likely won’t be enough to alleviate the elevated fire danger.

“Unless we were to get a good, long, soaking rain, the fire danger will remain,” Karl said. “We need a persistent rain for a few days to get our levels where they need to be.”

Karl said some residents hear about red flag warnings and have questions about open burn restrictions. However, open burns of items such as yard clippings and debris are never allowed in Arlington, per the county code.

Another thing that goes hand in hand with warm weather is grilling, which can be a hazard as well. Anyone using a charcoal grill is reminded to use extra caution with the coals.

  • balles qui traversent votre visage

    Oh this thread is just asking for an extra helping of novasteve

    • nom de guerre

      He’s outside having a smoke because the nanny state won’t allow him to smoke inside.

    • FunReadArlNow

      awesome screen name!

  • Vinh An Nguyen

    Cue the novasteve jokes in one…two..three

  • KalashniKEV

    “Due to our area being about four inches below normal”

    That’s what she said.

    • Swag

      To you, apparently.

    • MC 703

      She can throw my hose over her shoulder anyday

  • filthy disgusting (government subsidized) habit.

    • Dying of secondhand smoke

      Thank you! I wish they’d tax the heck out of ciggs. Farmers would still get paid, smokers would still smoke, but the gov’t would make some bucks. Ban public smoking, then use those bucks to install smoking huts/areas where you can smoke, and fine those who litter/smoke outside those areas. Suddenly you have increased revenue and those of us who chose to stay healthy are no longer subjected to nasty secondhand smoke and don’t have to pay for those people’s nasty habit cleanup anymore.

      • nom de guerre

        But we will eventually have to pay for the medical treatment costs associated with those who choose to smoke.

      • uh oh

        cue smoker gulag coment from NovaSteve

      • Arlington, Northside

        Tobacco subsidies have not existed since 2004. That is a fact. The Commonwealth of Virginia exists and is as strong as it is due to the infrastructure and economic base built by tobacco. While you can decide if the health implications have been worth it, you can’t deny the role that tobacco had on providing you a good quality of life here in the Old Dominion.

        • Michael H.

          Northern Virginia’s prosperity has more to do with the presence of the federal government, across the river and in NoVa as well. Even the tech sector probably wouldn’t have grown so strong without having the federal government agencies in the area.

          • Arlington, Northside

            That is only from the last fifty years. There would be have been no basic infrastructure to build upon of tobacco had not built this commonwealth in the times before and after the Revolution and it saved the commonwealth from the poverty that some of the other southern states suffered in the post-civil war years. It continued to help up until the mid-20th century when NC took over as the chief tobacco producing state. Had Alexandria and Georgetown not been the tobacco tradeing hubs that they were, Washington would likey have not been choosen as the Nation’s seat of government. The government has only fueled this area since WWII, tech has only fueled us since the late 60’s when Xerox set up shop out Rt.7, a road built by farmers bringing their tobacco in from WInchester and Leesburg to sell at market. You can’t revise tobacco out of our history no matter how many folks the product might have killed in the past.

      • Sandy

        The police do not even fine pedestrians who jaywalk, and you think they are going to fine people who toss their butts on the ground? LOL.

  • drax

    So why are firefighters so intolerant of smokers, novasteve?

    • drax

      For the record, I was in first!

  • Not a hater

    Gas grills should also be watched for flare-ups and embers that escape. Now here’s a good question: is a gas grill okay on a deck, or should you keep it on a patio or the grass?

    • JimPB

      Irrespective of the location of the gas grill, soak the surrounding potentially combustible area, and keep the hose connected and at hand in case a fire starts beyond the soaked area.

      • ARLwahoo

        I have a deck at a rental house and will probably still place it on the ground on a patio rather than risking burning down our (grossly overpriced) million dollar rental

  • JimPB

    Where are these brush and mulch fires?

    • just catching on

      In front of 7-11?

    • Over there, can you see it?

      They are located in and around brush and/or mulch.

    • mwm

      Last summer at the corner of N Quinn and Key Blvd I found a patch of mulch smoldering due to a cigarette butt. When I tried to extinguish it, I was surprised how much mulch under the top layer was burning.

    • CW

      I saw one last saturday at 8:30 AM!!! It was at the NW corner of Fairfax and Glebe. HUGE ACFD response and a bunch of firemen standing around with an extinguisher pointed at a burning mulch box.

      • Arlington, Northside

        Buildings around Fairfax and Glebe could be very costly to replace! A heavy response to a fire reported by a human and not just a smoke detector was warranted.

    • Sandy

      I think there was one in a planter outside the county government building last week.

      • LP

        There was also one on Jefferson Davis Highway in Crystal City a week or two ago.

        • Crystal Dykey

          I saw that one as well.

  • novasteve

    1. I only smoke if I drink

    2. If you didn’t force people outside to smoke, you wouldn’t have these issues in the first place.

    • Juanita de Talmas

      See, he can put the fire out with his drink.

    • drax

      1. Oh, that’s soooo much better.

      2. So nobody ever smoked outside before the ban in bars. Sure, steve.

      • novasteve

        I didn’t. Because I only smoke when I drink. Now I have no choice but to smoke outside. And same for other workplaces. You could have allowed them a smoking room that you wouldn’t go in, but instead, you wanted to punish them. Increasing fire risks, then you complain about smelling the smoke outside too, despite you forcing them outside.

        • drax

          Now we have breathing rooms, for humans who want to, like, breath air.

          You can smoke in a smoking room, or outside where you can’t suffocate me.

          Deal with it.

          • Sandy

            Don’t clutch those pearls too tight now!

    • nom de guerre
    • esmith69

      I do prefer a risk of brush/mulch fires instead of the health problems associated with secondhand smoke inhalation….

      I’d like to think that we’ve become civilized enough to act like grown adults and treat our surroundings and the environment with more respect, but I guess that’s just too much to expect of people?

    • Sikudhani

      Sounds more like an issue of providing people with a place to properly dispose of their cigarettes; if a place allowed indoor smoking, but lacked ash trays, I’m pretty sure there would be an increased risk of fire…

      • esmith69

        Don’t kid yourself, most places definitely have proper disposal receptacles. Ths issue is more that people seem to think that cigarette butts are somehow not trash, that because they’re small it doesn’t count as true littering.

      • WeiQiang

        Puh-leez. Cars had ashtrays for the better part of a century and you still saw/see people throwing their smoke product out the window.

        Likewise, with smoking receptacles. Smokers – and I will generalize – often do not use them.

        • Banksy

          Agreed with both esmith and weiqiang. It’s infuriating to see people just throw their cigarette butts onto the sidewalk or in the street when there is a trash can 10 feet away. Walking around downtown, I see this all the time.

  • Arlingtoon

    I think the headline writer is a troll.

  • Southie

    If only our police department had a quota for ticketing people for littering when they toss their cigarettes out of car windows. I don’t understand why smokers who do so don’t see that as littering and recognize the danger in it, particularly when we have such dry conditions.

    • Dezlboy

      Southie: You hit one of my major peeves. Smokers who throw butts out of cars or on the ground. Litter. Plain and simple. And a fire hazard to boot.

  • courthound

    Why should they care about starting a fire here or there? They don’t care about others having breathe their cancer.

  • Quoth the Raven

    To me, the point isn’t the smoking itself (ignorning for a moment the air pollution, cancer, etc), it’s what some smokers do when they’re done. The world is not your ashtray! Smoking and responsibly disposing of your butt vs. cavalierly throwing it out your car window or tossing it into the gutter. Stop the bad behavior and the fire danger drops quite a bit.

  • sunflower

    everyone should be responsible for his own butt!

    • Mr T

      His/her* own butt…c’mon, gender neutrality ftw!

      • sunflower

        my age is showing–thx


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