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By Chris Schaefer

Naval District Washington Fire and Emergency Services Fire Inspector

The Naval District Washington (NDW) Fire and Emergency Services Division has seen an increase in the improper disposal of cigarettes and an increase in cigarette receptacle, or butt can, fires, which resulted in crews having to respond to two such fires this summer at NAS Patuxent River.

Butt can fires have included areas behind Building 606, which spread and became a grass fire, and Building 2191. In December 2012, the gazebo next to Building 1489 caught fire. According to the NDW Fire and Emergency Services Division report, all three of these fires can be directly attributed to improper butt can maintenance.

‘Butt can’ fire prevention

 Do not put trash, paper or other non-tobacco products in the butt cans. Smoldering cigarette butts can easily ignite the material and catch fire.

 Empty butt cans on a regular basis.

 Inspect the cans on a regular basis. A faulty butt can or a rusted bottom can easily result in a fire.

Cigarette butts are the most commonly discarded piece of waste worldwide, according to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, with 1.69 billion pounds of butts winding up as toxic trash each year.

Not only do cigarette butts pose a serious litter and toxic waste disposal problem, they are a fire hazard; a cigarette butt can smoulder for up to three hours. The National Fire Protection Agency notes over 4,500 fires a year are caused by cigarettes and other tobacco-smoking materials.

While tobacco use is allowed on base in designated areas only, the Naval District Washington Instruction 11320.10E fire bill prohibits discarding smoking materials by any other means than a receptacle designed for discarded smoking materials — a butt can.

For more information on fire safety, call the NDW Fire and Emergency Services Division fire prevention office at 301-757-4685.