Careless Smokers Endanger the Lives and Property of Americans

Friday, January 5, 2000

How often do you see a smoker throw a burning cigarette, or cigarette butt, out a car window? You probably don't think much about it. Try this -- for the next week, keep a mental log of the number of incidents you see. This irresponsible practice is very common.

Over the holiday, I happened to be waiting outside a retail shopping area when an older man and his wife came up to a nearby store. Just before entering, the man threw his cigarette to the street. It was nearly full length. As I sat there and observed, the cigarette continued to smolder. After 5-8 minutes, the couple came out of the store. The man noticed his cigarette, still smoking away on the ground. He reached down picked it up -- and the funniest thing happened -- he put it back in his mouth and began sucking down the poisons... One wouldn't want to waste a good smoke!

In March 2000, a single cigarette crippled New Mexico and surrounding states (see story below). Investators believe a careless motorist tossed a lit cigarette out a car window. This caused millions of dollars of damage and left millions without power for most of a busy Saturday. To start the new millennium, 2001, we are confronted with a serious fire to the east of San Diego. It is belived a careless smoker caused this blaze as well.

A cigarette tossed by a careless smoker apparently set the fire that has torn across 10,500 acres of dry brush and destroyed at least four houses since Wednesday, fire investigators say.

The blaze in eastern San Diego County burned uninhibited for most of Wednesday and was just 15% contained Thursday morning. It was unknown when the fire would be fully contained.

The fire started before dawn Wednesday when a driver on Interstate 8 tossed a cigarette out a car window, fire incident commander Mike Conrad said Thursday.

  Alpine, CA fire

Alpine, CA fire
Alpine, CA fire

Careless Smoker and Single Cigarette Cripple New Mexico and Surrounding States

Saturday, March 18, 2000

New Mexico as a state covers an area of 314,938 sq km (121,598 sq mi). It ranks fifth among the states in size. Yet, a single cigarette, likely tossed from an automobile by an irresponsible smoker, led to a nearly total power outage across New Mexico.

KOB-TV Eyewitness News reported a cigarette started the brush fire. The fire engulfed a power transformer. Smoke caused the power to arc across lines. This shorted power equipment in New Mexico and Arizona. Citizens living as far away as El Paso, Texas had to suspend power usage to assist the crisis in New Mexico.

  Map of Affected Area
Ch4 Reporter, John Mason  

John Mason, KOB-TV Channel 4 New Reporter, covers the lead story about the massive power failure in New Mexico. This is likely to be one of the top stories of the year -- one of the epic events in New Mexico's history. As fears surrounding the Y2K computer bug failed to materialize, a single cigarette challenged all New Mexicans.

images: KOB-TV Eyewitness News, March 18, 2000

Southeast Albuquerque  

Left: Southeast Albuquerque near the famous 'Pit" basketball arena slow to regain power

Right: Trucks and autos lined up for hours waiting for fuel. Pumps do not pump without electricity.

  Lines at Gas Pumps

NMSU Sports Arena  

Left: State basketball playoffs in Las Cruces disrupted by cigarette fire.

Right: Players unable to play. Fans unable to enjoy competition due to careless smoker.

  Players without lights

Emergency personnel at work  

Left: Emergency officials, political leaders forced to react to crisis on normal day off.

Right: Law enforcement personnel suspend normal duties to direct traffic.

  Officer directs traffic

Traffic signals not working  

Left: On a busy Saturday afternoon, traffic signals did not work.

Right: El Paso residents forced to give up power to assist New Mexico crisis.

  El Paso, Texas traffic affected

Small fire, big crisis  

Left: Just one cigarette, an isolated brush fire in northwest New Mexico, leads to a crisis of epic proportions.

Right: Firefighter battles brush fire.

  Firefighter battles blaze

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