Smoking may be on the decline but it still takes a deadly toll in Iowa. In addition to health problems, Public-Safety Department spokesman Jim Saunders says smoking is implicated in many fires every year. He says it’s a category of fires caused by cigars, cigarettes, lighters and matches, and in the year 2004 local departments told the state fire marshal’s office about 484 incidents for that category. Fires caused by smoking materials that year caused 1-Million, 441-thousand dollars in property damage.
So far this year they’ve reported 143 incidents caused by smoking materials, with a total around 210-thousand dollars damage, though most won’t file their reports with the state fire marshal’s office till the end of the year. He cautions against trying to use the partial totals to see if there’s any result from the downturn in smoking.
Saunders explains much of the damage is related to the fact that tobacco use frequently involves fire. A lot of the fires in these reports are grass or wildfires where people have thrown partially smoked cigarettes out of vehicles in dry weather, starting a lot of field and ditch fires. They also see a lot of home fires where people fall asleep while smoking, or fail to completely extinguish a match and throw it into a garbage can.