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RFD: Careless smoking ranks as top cause of deadly home fires

People who smoke or live with a smoker have a greater risk of a home fire death than homes without smokers.

That’s according to the Russellville Fire Department, which reports that careless smoking is the No. 1 cause of home fire deaths in the U.S. The death rate is more than seven times greater in smoking-related home fires than in nonsmoking-related fires.

There are about 9,000 smoking-related fires in homes each year, and most people are asleep when the fires occur. “More than 60 percent of fires from careless smoking are caused by dropping a hot cigarette on a bed, upholstered furniture or in the trash,” said Fire Chief Joe Mansell. “It’s not just the smokers that are killed in these fires; one out of four fatal victims of smoking-material fires is not the smoker whose cigarette started the fire.”

Smoking-related fires can be prevented by taking a few simple precautions. Smokers and those who live with smokers can take the following steps:

  • Always smoke outdoors. Do not throw out cigarettes into potted plants, mulch or leaves.
  • If smoking indoors, use wide ashtrays with a stable base that won’t tip.
  • Always make sure cigarettes and ashes are out. Never toss hot cigarette butts or ashes in the trash. Soak cigarette butts and ashes in water before throwing them away.
  • Always check for cigarettes under chair and sofa cushions if people have been smoking in the home. A lit cigarette can smolder for 20-30 minutes or more before igniting anything.
  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Install and regularly test smoke alarms. A working smoke detector doubles a person’s chance of surviving a fire.