Demonstration shows dangers of discarding cigarettes

By Kristen Hampton - bio l email

MT. HOLLY, NC (WBTV) - Fire officials issued a red flag fire warning on Wednesday, meaning conditions are ripe for brush and forest fires.

March is typically the beginning of fire season where weather conditions can make outdoor burning dangerous.

But forestry officials say one of the biggest problems during this season, is improperly discarded cigarettes.

"Until things get green again, these fires can jump from a roadside and just keep going," said NC Forestry Ranger Farrell Banks. Banks is referring to the practice of disposing of lit cigarette butts out a car window or carelessly thrown on the ground.

Banks says 15 percent of the 380 brush fires reported last year were due to carelessly discarded cigarettes. We set a burning cigarette on the ground to demonstrate how quickly they can ignite the surrounding brush.

After several minutes of smoldering, the cigarette ignited leaves and brush and quickly spread before Banks scraped it out with a shovel.

The demonstration shows clearly what officials try desperately to get across to people. Tossing tiny butts can cause big problems.