Cigarette butts starting more fires

Amanda Hoffman

This summer’s hot temperatures and lack of rainfall serve as the perfect combination for a brush fire; all that’s needed is something to light the fire — like the flick of a lit cigarette butt.

The fire department put out a brush fire outside of Centennial Court A dorms last Tuesday at 5:48 p.m., John Tosko, Kent City Fire Department captain said. He confirmed that the cause of the fire was a discarded cigarette. Eight to 10 bushes and a tree burned in the fire.

“It hadn’t rained for a while, so it burned up very quickly,” Tosko said. “It took us a couple hundred gallons of water to put out.”

Grounds Manager Heather White said this wasn’t Kent State’s first brush fire this school year: There have been three or four so far. There were no reported fires last year, and “the worst year (aside from this year) was where we had two,” White said.

“There have been fires all over,” Fire Safety Coordinator Ed Moisio Jr. said. “Most have been around the dorms.”

Students or faculty reported two fires by Korb Hall as well as one outside both Clark Hall and Centennial Court A. Reports of fires have come from outside Bowman Hall and Satterfield Hall.

Last Tuesday’s fire was the “most dramatic,” White said. This fire alone caused about $1,000 in damages.

White or dark green urns and cigarette containers are placed outside every building for smokers to discard lit cigarettes. Yet smokers continue to flick their butts to the ground or in the bushes, White said.

The Kent State grounds crew bought urns with wider mouths thinking “the students could hit those,” White said, “but it’s still easier to flick butts.”

Some smokers said they will use the urns if one is by them at the time, but will toss it otherwise.

“Usually if I’m by the ashtray I’ll use it, like right out of class, I’ll use it. If not, I toss it,“ Freshman exploratory major Harper Le said. “I don’t like to litter, but I guess it’s just another bad habit.”

Laura Davis, a Sophomore electronic media production major, usually puts her cigarette butts in an ashtray. “Sometimes when I’m outside, I’ll put it out, and put it back in the pack until I can throw it out.”

The grounds department isn’t sure how many urns the campus needs. However, Kent State has ordered additional urns to be placed around campus.

“Not being a smoker myself, I don’t know if we have enough (urns),” White said.

White said she just wants to help educate students and control the litter of cigarette butts. “It’s likely the person who discarded the butt had no idea that an hour later it caught (fire) and lit up.”

During her interview, Davis witnessed one smoker simply toss his cigarette away.

“If you put it down, at least put it out,” Davis said.

Contact Amanda Hoffman at [email protected].