Do not drop your cigarette butts into dried grass along the sides of the road. (Andrea Rondeau/Citizen)

Do not drop your cigarette butts into dried grass along the sides of the road. (Andrea Rondeau/Citizen)

Editorial: Don’t cause a fire with a tossed cigarette butt

Too many brushfires started by the careless disgarding of a cigarette butt into dry grass or bushes

Walking along various roads and sidewalks in the Cowichan Valley, there’s one very scary thing that’s far too much in evidence: cigarette butts.

Why are these so scary? Sure, smoking is terrible for your health and the people around you, but this time of year, the remnants of this habit become an even larger, looming threat.

Far too many brushfires are started by the careless discarding of a cigarette butt into dry grass or bushes on the sides of the road. We have been fortunate so far this summer that wildfires haven’t made a big impact in the Cowichan Valley, and indeed on Vancouver Island as a whole. Lightning started a bunch last week in various rural areas on the Island, but all too often the cause of wildfires is humans.

All it takes is for a cigarette not to be as extinguished as the smoker thinks it is when they toss it away for it to turn into the fuse to a ticking time bomb.

We’ll pause here to mention that cigarette butts shouldn’t be tossed out of car windows or dropped by pedestrians on the roadside in any case, as this littering is against the law, and also disgusting. Nobody wants to look at and smell other people’s trash. It seems as if smokers too often thing that because their butts are small, it’s not a big deal. Thing is, all those little bits add up.

But back to the serious danger cigarette butts can pose to the community.

Last week firefighters were called to a bush fire in a traffic circle in Maple Bay. While the cause of that fire is under investigation, it’s not difficult to imagine a cigarette butt tossed from a car window as a possible culprit. Firefighters have also been called out to smouldering planters and bark mulch in urban areas — an all too common call-out during the summer as smokers misjudge their discards.

As the dry weather continues and another heat wave engulfs us, smokers need to take special care to make sure their cigarette remains are entirely doused. Then they need to place them into a proper waste receptacle, whether that garbage can is at home, work, or publicly offered. If someone is driving and doesn’t want to have the smell of the cigarette lingering in their vehicle, they need to carry a small container that they can open, put the butt into, then seal.

What people should absolutely not do is drop their butts anywhere near bone dry grass, bark mulch, or brush. This kind of disregard for public safety can lead to catastrophe.