Fire chief calls attention to link between smoking, residential structure fires


By Blythe Alspaugh - [email protected]



SIDNEY — Sidney Fire Chief Chad Hollinger is calling attention to the common causes in residential structure fires — something the community has experienced an increase of recently.

The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) reported that more than 26% of fires from 2015 to 2019 occurred in homes, and 75% of civilian fire deaths and 72% of all reported injuries during this time were caused by home fires. During this five-year period, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 346,000 home structure fires per year, which caused an annual average of 2,620 civilian deaths, 11,070 civilian fire injuries and $7.3 billion in direct property damage.

One of the common causes in several of the residential structure fires in the community is improperly discarded smoking materials, according to Hollinger. Data from a 2019 study by the United States Fire Administration (USFA) indicates that 2% of all residential building fires are caused by smoking.

“This statistic alone is not that alarming. However, it is compounded when the data from residential fires where an injury or fatality occurred is considered,” Hollinger said.

The USFA reports that in 2019, fires caused by smoking accounted for just over 6% of the incidents and fires that resulted in a fatality were caused by smoking in over 12% of the incidents.

Those who smoke can take several steps to ensure that they are being as safe as possible to prevent a fire.

First, smoke outside. A residence contains many objects that can catch fire. A lit cigarette burns at a temperature of approximately 750 to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit.

“This is significantly higher than the ignition temperature of many home furnishings,” Hollinger said.

Second, put cigarettes out all the way and do this every time. Do not leave burning cigarettes unattended. Thoroughly soaking the ashes and cigarette butts ensures that there are no remaining embers that can start a fire.

Finally, utilize an ashtray or bucket of sand with a wide base to put out cigarettes. These non-flammable containers with wide bases won’t tip over easily and start an unintentional fire.

“Quitting smoking has the dual benefit of not only preventing fires started by smoking materials, but also improves your health,” Hollinger said.

The American Cancer Society reports that health benefits of quitting begin as soon as 20 minutes after quitting with a drop in heart rate and blood pressure. One year after quitting, the risk of heart attack decreases significantly and five to 10 years after quitting, the risk of certain cancers is cut in half with the risk of stroke also decreasing. Fifteen years after quitting, the risk of coronary heart disease is nearly similar to that of a non-smoker.

“This month is American Heart Month, so take this opportunity to quit for your heart and your home,” Hollinger said.

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By Blythe Alspaugh

[email protected]

The Sidney Daily News conducts a periodic interview to update readers with news from the Sidney Fire and Emergency Services Department, 222 W. Poplar St., Sidney.

The Sidney Daily News conducts a periodic interview to update readers with news from the Sidney Fire and Emergency Services Department, 222 W. Poplar St., Sidney.