Fire experts warn of cigarette butt dangers - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Fire experts warn of cigarette butt dangers

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CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) -

One person is in critical condition following a fatal house fire in Chester, and investigators concluded the fire started from smoking materials left in a flower pot. Now investigators are reminding everyone to watch where you toss your cigarette butts.

It's a lesson that can be lifesaving. The danger of mixing fire and wood is no secret. Compare that to tossing a cigarette butt into mulch. Experts say it's the same scenario. Just a simple mistake can have deadly consequences.

"If you've got a lot of wood content in there, all you need is an ignition source. It could be a match. It could be a cigarette," said Michael Likins with the Chesterfield Extension office.

Likins has seen this happen time and time again.

"Especially at medians that have been landscaped and there is mulch," he said, "careless smokers have tossed their cigarettes out and caused a number of fires."

It's the unfortunate story that played out on Hamlin Court early Sunday morning. Six people were home when the two-story house caught fire. One woman died. Another jumped out a window to escape. When it was all over, investigators found a melted flower pot with smoking materials inside.

"It's a mixture of dirt and mulch all together to help the plant grow in it, but it can also, with a cigarette put into there, can smolder for quite some time and eventually ignite the pot itself especially if that pot is plastic," said Lt. Jason Elmore.

He said it could happen to anyone.

"It may be several hours later, which may mean you're asleep. You may have already left the house after putting out the cigarette. Make sure you're using a proper receptacle. Make sure the cigarette butt is completely out when you do it. That way you can stay safe," Elmore said.

"Think back to your days of growing up on Smoky the Bear. They always told you to handle your cigarettes, your matches, your open flames carefully. There was a reason. It doesn't take much," Likins said.

Two children are out of the hospital, but two adults are still recovering from injuries sustained in the fire.

Deux Amis Med Spa is holding a clothing and toy drive for the family. You can stop by any day except Wednesday and Sunday to drop off a donation to the family. The spa is located at 11800 Chester Village Drive.

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