Firefighters issue stark warning to smokers

Wednesday, 5 January 2022 at 6:04 am

This New Year, Victorian firefighters are encouraging smokers to make crucial changes to their smoking practices. 

Lit and improperly discarded cigarettes are a leading cause of house fire fatalities. 

New data reveals that in 2020-21, 17 people died in preventable house fires, and in seven of the cases, smoking was a possible contributing factor.

In total, firefighters across the state responded to more than 200 house fires sparked by smoking materials.

Acting Fire Rescue Commissioner Gavin Freeman said firefighters were deeply concerned by these incidents.

“Time and again, Victorian firefighters find themselves at house fires sparked by smoking materials, which are much more likely to turn deadly,” Acting Commissioner Freeman said.

“I urge all smokers, their friends and families to take some basic fire safety precautions to prevent more tragic deaths from occurring.”

Acting Commissioner Freeman said several of the fatalities were the result of people falling asleep with lit cigarettes.

“If you or anyone you know is at risk of this occurring, please make some changes now before it is too late,” Acting Commissioner Freeman said.

CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan said smoking in bed or smoking while affected by alcohol, medication or other drugs dramatically increased your risk of dying in a house fire.

“Beds, couches and other soft furnishings are highly flammable, so if you fall asleep with a lit cigarette on these surfaces you could have just seconds to escape,” Chief Officer Heffernan said.

“Quitting smoking is the safest option from both a health and fire safety perspective, but if that isn’t possible then firefighters recommend smoking outdoors.”

“Make sure you butt out your cigarettes and ensure they are fully extinguished before putting them in the bin, as rubbish and plants can and do ignite due to improperly discarded cigarettes.”

“Furthermore, smoking materials frequently cause bush and grassfires, so I urge all smokers to take the time to fully extinguish their cigarettes this summer.”

Acting Commissioner Freeman said if people were going to smoke inside the house, they should install smoke alarms in every room.

“Only working smoke alarms will wake you up in the event of a house fire, providing crucial time to evacuate,” he said.

“It is also very important that lighters and matches are kept well away from children, as it is not uncommon for young children to accidentally spark major house fires with lighters and matches.”

Learn more:

Victorian fire services recommendations:

  • Quitting smoking is the safest option from both a health and fire safety perspective.
  • If you can, smoke outside the home in a designated area with a heavy, high-sided, non-combustible ashtray for cigarette butts.
  • If smoking occurs in the home, there should be a smoke alarm in every room where smoking may occur.
  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Don’t smoke when affected by alcohol, medications or other drugs that may cause drowsiness.
  • Use heavy, high-sided, non-combustible ashtrays to dispose of cigarette butts. This can be done by pouring some water on the ash.
  • “Stick it don’t flick it” – never flick cigarette butts, either inside or outside.
  • Never leave a lit cigarette unattended and butt out your cigarette before you walk away.
  • Keep matches and cigarette lighters out of reach of children.
  • Install smoke detectors in every room, and test to ensure they are working.