In the past two weeks, the Alexandria Fire Department (AFD) has responded to several serious balcony fires in Alexandria, Virginia that were ignited by discarded smoking materials. According to the United States Fire Administration (USFA), smoking materials are the leading cause of fire deaths. AFD encourages residents and property owners to be aware and to keep their families and properties safe when using smoking materials.
Whether you smoke yourself or have guests visiting your home who smoke, AFD urges you to follow these simple fire safety tips to reduce the risk of a smoking-related fire in your home or on your balcony or patio.
- Never smoke in bed. Mattresses and bedding can quickly catch fire. Do not smoke in bed, because you may also fall asleep with a lit cigarette.
- Smoke outside. Many items in your home can catch on fire easily if they touch something hot like a cigarette or ashes. It is always safer to smoke outside.
- If you smoke it, put it out all the way. Do this every time. Do not walk away from lit cigarettes and other smoking materials. Put water on the ashes and butts to make sure they are completely out before putting them in the trash.
- Put your smoking materials out in an ashtray or bucket with sand. While smoking outdoors is safer, make sure you properly extinguish smoking materials when outdoors or while on a balcony or patio area. Use ashtrays with a wide base that won’t tip over and start a fire. In multifamily buildings and apartment high rises, many people are at risk when a smoker fails to properly extinguish smoking materials.
- Never smoke around medical oxygen. Medical oxygen can explode if a flame or spark is near. Even if the oxygen is turned off, it can still catch on fire.
- Be alert. Do not smoke after taking medicine that makes you tired. You may not be able to prevent or escape from a fire if you are sleepy or have taken medicine that causes drowsiness.
Protect your home from fires by talking to your family about what you should do in case of a fire, and make a fire escape plan. Reduce the risk of fire by installing smoke detectors on every level of your home. Test your smoke alarms once a month to make sure they are all in working condition.