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Cigarette butt causes fire near homes ; prompts Fire Chief to warn of hefty fines for careless fire behaviour

Photo courtesy the Castlegar Fire Department.

A grass fire, likely caused by a discarded cigarette butt, burned a 20 by 30 metre section of the bank near 17 Street (behind Safeway) before crews could extinguish it, according to Fire Chief Sam Lattanzio.

“This was definitely human-caused, most likely from smoking materials,” he said, adding they got the call at 12:20 p.m. and seven firefighters had the blaze dealt with and were back at the hall by 1:30 p.m.

That was partly in thanks to the quick response of a passerby who saw the fire, alerted 9-1-1, and came back with a fire extinguisher. Deputy Chief Nick Ahlefeld was also nearby, and arrived with his extinguisher.

“The two kept the fire down enough until the engine got there,” Lattanzio said.

“I’m concerned – actually, I’m angry – that people just aren’t getting the message,” he added. “Smokers should have some sort of can with which to properly extinguish their butts, rather than dropping them on the ground. People need to understand how serious this is and be more vigilant.”

To that end, he reminded that several residents have already faced heavy fines – throwing your cigarette out your car window will get you a $575 ticket, for example.

There’s also a $1,150 provincial fine for each person sitting at an illegal campfire (and all outdoor burning is currently illegal), a $300 municipal one, another $100 for not having adequate fire suppression supplies on hand, another $100 hit for being drunk or otherwise incompetent to tend the fire properly, and yet another $100 for burning prohibited materials.

That’s almost $2,000 per person attending the fire.

“We’ve given out several tickets already this season,” Lattanzio said. “This is no laughing matter.”

The provincial State of Emergency has once again been extended into September.