Spike in mulch fires on Midlothian from discarded cigarettes

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - Stop tossing cigarette butts out your car window! A stern message from the Chesterfield Fire Department after having to put out more than 50 mulch fires in the last two weeks.

The fires have popped up in the median on Midlothian between Chesterfield Towne Center and the Koger Center. Firefighters tell me they're coming out way too often putting out fires that can easily be avoided.

Our camera rolled as fire crews doused the sixth mulch fire today on Midlothian. It was near Johnston Willis Drive.

Just in the last two weeks, crews have put out more than 50 such fires. The cause is mixed in with the fresh mulch, plant and flowers: cigarette butts.

Part of the Midlothian Turnpike median looks like an ashtray. The smokers who left the mess, also created a fire hazard, especially with the dry conditions.

"They run as many as 12 in one day," said Lt. Jason Elmore with Chesterfield Fire.

The fire department saw a spike in mulch fires a couple weeks ago. Lt. Elmore said not only are they putting firefighters at risk by having to hop out on a busy corridor, but they're tying up important resources.

 "When we're out here an upwards of 10 to 12 times a day, that's 10 or 12 times that fire apparatus is not available," said Lt. Elmore.

If you discard a cigarette and it starts a fire and you're caught, you could face up to a $2,500 fine and up to a year in jail. Fire officials tell us the times vary for the fires from mid-morning to the end of the work day. 

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